September 30, 2008

Well, Hey Now

Speaking of Cave of my poems from the issue, "The Sand Speaks," popped up on Verse Daily today!

September 28, 2008

On the Road

When Rhett Iseman Trull, the gracious editor of Cave Wall, first said "You really ought to give a reading in Greensboro," I was charmed but not committed. Converting an enthusiastic notion to an actual booking is like herding cats...usually. But Rhett is a force unto herself. Next thing I knew Terry Kennedy had found space for me in the University of North Carolina-Greensboro reading series, Rhett was dangling the temptation of home-hosting and quality cat-time with not one but three kitties, and I was packing my bags for the five-and-a-half-hour drive to Greensboro.

The driving gods were smiling on Thursday morning. I've always loved road trips and it was a straight shot, listening to Iron & Wine and snacking on Late July Organic Peanut Butter Crackers. It's frightening to schedule a reading knowing you won't have guaranteed downtime (much less a night's sleep) after the drive. But Rhett and I had lunch (with coffee, oh sweet strong coffee) and a bit of conversation beforehand. Another peril of readings is often no time to talk to the very people you wanted to talk to most, so this stretch--and another Friday morning, over orange juice, envelope-stuffing, and the comic-extension of Buffy the Vampire Slayer--was a welcome respite.

The reading was in the UNCG art museum, in a second-floor gallery of Peter Takal's drawings. On our walk in the skies were swirling ominously, with a vicious wind. I walked in to see forty empty seats and did the math: impending storm + dinner hour - reception (no food or drink allowed in the museum) = we are never going to fill all these seats. But lo and behold, by the time I stood up the room was packed. Not sure it's any tribute to me; thanks to Terry for really getting the word out, and to Rhett for an incredible introduction. I was particularly thrilled to have faculty members from UNCG's MFA program--including Jim Clark, Jennifer Grotz, Michael Parker (who I met a few years ago, during a residency at Virginia Center for Creative Arts), and Allison Seay--in the audience. It's a measure of a program's vitality when professors come out on a night they don't have to, and I truly appreciated the welcome.

Afterwards, a few of us went out for sushi; half price off on hot sake when it's raining, you can't beat that. Usually I'm a purist--salmon sashimi, mackeral nigiri--but that night I got one of those outlandish speciality rolls, a "caterpillar" of eel, avocado, and gobo (mountain carrot), with two eyes of octopus tentacles. We told some literary tales (turns out Greensboro and Charlottesville share some resident characters) before adjourning to the Old Town Draught House. Greasy fries. Wheat beer. And deep, deep sleep.

The driving gods were scowling on Friday morning. Never a good sign when the first thing you do is hit a squirrel. Then get so rattled that you go south on 85 for a half-hour. Then get stuck in not one but five stretches where the rain is so heavy, the splatter from truck tires so thick, that you have to lean over the steering wheel like a grandma and go fifteen miles below the speed limit. After six hours I made it to DC, and then...went straight back into the office.

Ah well. A little pain to define the pleasure. Please, if you have not already done so--check out Cave Wall. The world needs more editors like Rhett, and as writers we need to show our love for someone who is willing to stick her neck out and make poetry things happen.

September 24, 2008

Hither! Yon!

Headed to Greensboro super-early tomorrow morning for a reading:

Sandra Beasley - Poetry Reading
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
MFA Writing Program

September 25, 2008 - 5:30 PM

The MFA Writing Program at UNC Greensboro, Cave Wall, and The UNCG Center for Creative Writing in the Arts will host a poetry reading by Sandra Beasley in the Peter Takal Drawings Exhibition on the 2nd Floor of the Weatherspoon Art Museum (500 Tate Street). Followed by a book signing.

...Wish me luck on the long drive! And if you're in town, please come out for the reading. Afterwards, I'm hoping to kick back for conversation over beers.

September 22, 2008

Where I'll be on Wednesday

(This is one of my favorite local intimate space, nicely paced, with plenty of wine & chips & salsa & conversation afterwards. If you're in the DC area, I really encourage you to come!)

Brookland poets Michael Gushue and Dan Vera

will read from their work as a part of A Space Inside

-Wednesday, September 24 at 7 p.m. at Riverby Books-

Michael Gushue co-coordinates the BAWA* Series, a monthly poetry series in the Brookland neighborhood. He co-runs Vrzhu (Ver-zhoo) Press, a small press specializing in poetry chapbooks, full-length books, and books of in-between lengths and is the sole operator of Beothuk (Bay-uh-tuk) Books, another poetry press. His chapbook, Gathering Down Women, is available from Pudding House Press.

Dan Vera is a poet, writer, and editor who now makes his home in Washington, DC, after living in Texas, Colorado, Washington State and Chicago. He is the Managing Editor of the gay culture journal White Crane, founder of Brookland Area Writers & Artists, co-publisher of VRZHU Poetry Press, and a member of the Triangle Artists Group. A writer of poetry for almost twenty years, The Space Between Our Danger and Delight, published by Beothuk Books is his first book of poetry.

Rounding out its third year, A Space Inside provides a space where developing writers, lesser known voices, and the work better-known writers create between books can be heard. Monthly readings alternate between poetry and prose, but all readers are DC-based writers. All readings, which are free and open to the public, are hosted by Riverby Books with a reception following. Questions should be directed to series organizer, Monica F. Jacobe at

Riverby Books is located at 417 East Capitol Street, SE, just north of Eastern Market and four blocks east of the U.S. Capitol. A seller of used and rare books, they are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can be reached at (202) 543-4342.

September 17, 2008

Live, from Atlanta

"Don’t get me wrong, there are stacks of to-do paperwork elsewhere, but having a blank surface is key to giving myself permission to write. If I were trying to draft a sestina while also eyeing my incomplete 2008 tax return, the sestina would never happen."

...I am guest-blogging over at Linebreak's new blog for the next week or so. The first post was in response to a request for a glimpse of my writing space, and is complete with picture. Go check it out.

Once I get a little further into my Atlanta trip, I'll be reporting on that as well. More soon! Now, off to raid the Emory Inn's minibar.

September 15, 2008

Around the World in 80 Poets

Well, maybe not 80, but a few...

I joined the other loggers / after work, / slurping a dozen cold / lobed oysters, / the hot-sauce stinging low / in my throat / while Johnny Carson beamed, / all toothy, / "That's outstanding, really / fabulous...." -Caki Wilkinson, "Fisher King"

Caki Wilkinson just won one of the Poetry Foundation's prestigious Ruth Lilly Fellowships ($15K! I'm so jealous). She also charmed everyone who met her in July at the Sewanee Writer's Conference, where she returns each year as a staff member. If you'd like to find out more about her work, she has a reading posted online at Apostrophe Cast. I had not seen this site before, but was immediately impressed by the clean layout and good sound quality--not to mention the REALLY rich and diverse archive of poets. Check it out. Speaking of online broadcasts...

Poet and local powerhouse Grace Cavalieri recently interviewed me for her "The Poet and the Poem" series, hosted at the Library of Congress, and you can find the finished recording now on their website. The program also featured Kyle Dargan, who I know from UVA days. Leading me to...

Hangdog suns skulk in the south, / shirking the late afternoon. / It doesn’t get darker than this. / Now what? What are we waiting for? / Doesn’t get more naked either.... - Steve Cushman, "December"

I had the pleasure of having Steve Cushman as my advisor back when I was an overzealous undergrad at UVA, where he is the Robert C. Taylor Professor in the English Department. His third collection of poetry, Heart Island, came out in 2006; he has also written about the Civil War, and he is the editor of the new edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (which is mighty impressive if you think about it).

If you're in town, he'll be travelling up from Charlottesville to read from his poetry on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, at 3:10 p.m. on the Catholic University campus (108 Hannan Hall). This is free and open the the DC community, with a reception and book signing to follow the reading. Parking available in the lot, or you can use the Red line metro--CUA/Brookland stop.

September 12, 2008

Thank God It's Friday

National Endowment For The Arts Funds Construction Of $1.3 Billion Poem
September 12, 2008 | Issue 44•37

WASHINGTON—The National Endowment for the Arts announced Monday that it has begun construction on a $1.3 billion, 14-line lyric poem—its largest investment in the nation's aesthetic- industrial complex since the $850 million interpretive-dance budget of 1985.... [From The Onion]

Happy Friday, folks. If you're in the Annapolis area please come out to my reading tonight with Temple Cone at b.b. Bistro; or come to Cafe Muse this Monday, when I read with Susan Williams.

September 11, 2008

Thar She Blows

Looking for a new place to submit? Consider the WHITE WHALE REVIEW:

"White Whale Review welcomes submissions from both published and new writers....The caliber of the work is of paramount importance, and submissions in any style treating most subject matter will be considered according to that standard. Nonfiction might run the gamut from literary reportage to memoir to travelogue and beyond. In emphasis: all writing should be nuanced and affective and plainly good."

I got a charming note from the editor, Jim Cronin, and I'm happy to report they consider simultaneous submissions AND process them electronically.

What makes this exchange so interesting is not only the initial observation, but the dialogue that unfolds in the comments. I was speaking of Jason Bredle just yesterday--I'm a big fan. It was in the context of "book contests I didn't feel so bad about losing once I saw how amazing the winner was..."

And check this out. Keep clicking until you Joe is more fully revealed. It makes me want to redesign my website, just as an excuse to work with this guy. No surprise that Miranda July, who had one of the most charming book-promotion sites I have ever seen, figures in his linkbar.

September 10, 2008

Think You've Got It?

Because MIPOesias is taking auditions for the 2008 "Sexy Issue":

"For consideration of the next SEXY ISSUE, please send a link to an author photo and a sample poem of your work found online. Do not send attachments. If I like what I read, you will receive an invitation to submit new work and photographs for the SEXY ISSUE.

Please do not submit if you are unable to send in from 20 photos of yourself photographed in different views and backdrops in high resolution 300 dpi.

To view our past sexiness, please stop by here.

Please note that I will only respond to authors I wish to feature after receiving the email audition. No rejections will be sent out. That would be too cruel. So if you do not hear from me within two weeks please take the silence as a no.

Email mipoesias at gmail dot com and place on subject line MIPO IS SEXY.

The issue will be available as a pdf file and also in print through amazon. Only ten poets will make the cut. For this special issue of MiPO, I will offer those that pass the audition one contributor hard copy.

Thank you and good luck!
Didi Menendez
Publisher and Editor"

20 photos?!? Hmmm. The Washington Post made me take 24 "self-portraits" with a disposable camera, and that was a form of torture. Not sure I'm a hardy enough soul for this project...on the other hand, this is one sweet photo they got of Ken Rumble in last year's issue:

September 08, 2008


My weekend:
Splendid Open House at the Writer's Center.
Dinner party, complete with poodle.
Farmer's Market.
Duckpin Bowling.
Mad Men.
Scotch & gummi bears.
True Blood.
When Harry Met Sally.

Please note that I've filled in all kinds of logistical details for September and October readings, both here and on my website. I am particularly excited to be traveling to Atlanta, Greensboro, and New York City. For DC folks, please consider coming out to hear me read with Susan Settelmyre Williams this Monday (September 15) at the Cafe Muse Series. An emergency forced Susan to cancel her DC reading earlier this year, so I'm particularly thrilled to have a second chance. Her book, Ashes in Midair, won the 2007 Poetry Book Contest from Many Mountains Moving, selected by Yusef Komunyakaa.

My September 25 reading in Greensboro, North Carolina, is in celebration of the latest issue of Cave Wall, just out for Summer/Fall 2008. Cave Wall is a splendid little journal ably edited by the wonderful Rhett Iseman Tull; it could be the next generation of Poetry, in both physical format and aesthetic aspiration. I have three poems in the new issue, and you can read "Another Failed Poem about the Greeks" on the Cave Wall website.

September 02, 2008

Bookslut? Galley Cat? Anybody?

I enjoyed meeting author and feminist critic Susan Faludi at luncheon hosted by her publisher some months back. Later, I enjoyed reading her book The Terror Dream when it came to my office in hardback. When I spied the paperback edition at Kramerbooks today, I thought the redesigned cover was quite stunning.

I also thought--assumed, was dead sure--that the cover was using the art work of Kara Walker. Compare: some work from Kara Walker's recent exhibition, My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love:

As readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of Walker's work. Because she is a political artist in her own right, I was surprised to see her willing to affiliate with Faludi, who has her own set of controversies. Well, it turns out this artwork is not credited to Kara Walker; it is apparently part of the "original" book design.

Which leaves me feeling a touch of discomfort. I recognize that whereas Southern iconography reigns in Walker's work, this cover substitutes Western images. Instead of dancing slaves, we have a dancing "injun." Maybe that's enough difference on a legal level. But I have the uncomfortable suspicion that Walker has exhibited an image very similar to that silhouette of the woman straddling the cowboy. Walker's version might be in a plantation skirt, and he might have a foreman's whip instead of a Stetson. Still, the spirit is the same: the oppressed loving her oppressor.

Does anyone else think this is an odd echo? Has Walker developed a "style" that, like Andy Warhol, can be imitated without consequence?

Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer

...Mining what's around you is practically inevitable, particularly for the first book. Young writers have been using the same bildungsroman arc since the days of the German enlightenment, and one of the things you hear over and over in MFA programs—"write what you know"—does nothing to challenge that. Which is just fine, as long as the craft is there and the writer has the discipline to then move on...

(Thanks for the great interview questions, Robert!)