June 27, 2007

Publishing Chatter

I was leafing through Publisher's Weekly today, and they have one of their periodic poetry review sections this week. People snipe about "mainstream" poets getting all the attention, but I don't think the selection bears that out: Martha Ronk (Coffee House), X.J. Kennedy (BOA), Cate Marvin (Sarabande), A. Van Jordan (Norton), Translations of Paulo Henriques Britto (BOA), Fanny Howe (Graywolf), Translations of Laura Solorzano (Action Books), Juliana Spahr (Atelos Press), and Courtney Queeney (Random House).

I don't think that's a bad variety at all. Sure, Van Jordan is a "Norton poet" now, but he's not that many steps removed from being a D.C. poet who got his big break in 2001, when Tia Chucha published Rise.

That said, who is Courtney Queeney, and how did her first book get published by Random House? I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm honestly curious. I've never run across her work in a journal; the biggest selection I find online is here, if that's even the same Courtney Queeney. PW says on one hand her "debut can sometimes sound more promising than achieved"; on the other, "there may be a following for this gifted and direct writer." I like how they take pains to specify that she's "direct"--it tells you something about the biases against poetry.

On another front, Tupelo is having its annual Open Reading Period again this July. After last year's ethical quagmire they didn't even broach the topic of offering comments...but they still left their fee at $35. Remember, that extra $10 was orginally justified by the promise of individual feedback.

Beautiful books. Talented authors. But $35? They should include a book from Tupelo backstock for that amount, don't you think?

June 19, 2007

...But I Still Need Quarters to Do Laundry

Woke up; reread the email; wasn't a dream. Checked several times.

Thanks to everyone for the outpouring of support and good wishes. If I can garner that same enthusiasm when Theories of Falling is actually in hand, I'll be a lucky woman. So many things happened right off the bat: withdrawing from book contests, editing my bio note, lining up blurbers, seeing a smidgen of Marie Howe's comments ("...the tough lyric voice that got under my skin"). The domino effect is both scary and gratifying.

This weekend, though, I went to the beach with old high school friends (and their kids), and that was a good reminder: a crying two year old is not amused by your big poetry news. I still need to do laundry. I still have to go to the DMV. My sister just won a big college scholarship ($10,000!), and for her application she produced 50 pages of prose. Single-spaced. She's way cooler than I am.

I was reading an article today about the increasing popularity of "midlevel careers"; lower pay, better hours. The biggest question I get from non-poets, in response to the book news, is "Does this mean you can be a full-time poet?" After I say "Um, not likely," they usually say "Well, does that mean you can teach, though?"

It's been several years since I thought of publishing as a stepping-stone to teaching. With many friends who are also college profsssors, I've come to believe that it is VERY difficult to strike the balance of doing justice to your student and nourishing your own creative impulse. I like editing; working at a quarterly magazine, the pace is never too frantic. It's a job I can love, but also leave at the office at the end of each day. If that means that I'll never have a salary in the triple digits...I'm okay with that.

C. Dale Young and Peter Pereira are both doctors and poets, and it figures prominently onto their blogs. Steve Schroeder periodically mentions his work as a resume-editor. Matthew Thorburn made a passing acknowledgement that he works at a law firm in his blog post the other day; I'd have never guessed. I'm curious, what are some of the other "day jobs" held by poet-bloggers? How high-stress is the job, and how does that figure into your creative life?

June 12, 2007

The View from Cloud 9

So this is me, in Switzerland, two weekends ago. I can now reveal that after getting off my nine-hour plane ride home, I checked messages and learned...

My manuscript, "Theories of Falling," won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize selected by Marie Howe. The prize carries a $2,000 award and publication of the book in Spring 2008 by New Issues Poetry and Prose (at Western Michigan University).

I don't know quite what to say...other than I am extremely thrilled, and grateful, and so happy to share this news with all of you.

June 11, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

Thanks again to Nick for giving me a Thinking Blogger Award (go here to read about the origins of the award). Below are my five picks for blogs that provoke thought and dialogue. If the blog-owners choose to accept the award, they need to honor these guidelines:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think;
2. Link to the Thinking Blog to that people can find the exact origin of the meme;
3. Optional: Display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Without further ado, five blogs I admire (and haven't seen nominated elsewhere):

32 Poems / Deborah Ager - Deborah is one of the most dedicated and coherent bloggers I know. Her posts strike a nice balance between personal and poetry matters.

Every Other Day / Kate Greenstreet - Kate's series of first book interviews is the single-most rich resource of industry experience that I've found on a blog. It takes diligence to keep gathering and posting these, and we should all thank her wholeheartedly.

Lorcaloca / Eduardo Corral (with Diana Delgado) - When I started reading beyond blogs by people I knew in the "real world," I stumbled across Eduardo's postings and was instantly drawn in. He's pretty fearless; there's no sacred cows. Probably the blog that makes me laugh out loud (in a thoughtful way) most often.

Awfully Serious / Ali Stine - Okay, it's a bit of a dodge to nominate this blog, since it has pretty much shut down--but of the blogs that have evaporated, it is the one I miss the most. Ali's postings were beautifully crafted mini-essays--it would not surprise me if they were reconstituted in memoir form down the road.

Cackling Jackal / Reb Livingston - Reb is really willing to commit and discuss publishing issues in depth, not only on her blog but in the comment sections of other people's blogs. She's a tireless defender of online and POD publishing. She'll kick your ass, basically, and you'll thank her for it.

Okay, those are my champions of the day. If you haven't visited these blogs yet...what are you sticking around here for?

June 06, 2007

Recent Readings

Nick was kind enough to nominate me for a Thinking Blogger Award--thanks, Nick! He was honoring, let's be clear, my April productivity (versus my May sloth). I'll do my proper TBA post early next week. In the meantime, let me earn the award by actually writing about some poetry matters: I went to several good readings in the last month, but didn't get to comment on any of them.
A rundown....

-June 5 at Miller Cabin (in Rock Creek Park), with Deborah Ager and Tung-Hui Hu: Lovely setting, despite numerous mosquito bites; this was the inaugural reading of the Miller Cabin season. Deborah read some of the revised poems for April, which I'm really excited about, as well as some of the core poems that will go in Midnight Voices, to be published by Cherry Grove (WordTech) next year. One funny thing; the host for the evening pointed out that Deborah has a lot of stars (/night) in her poems, and once said it was impossible to ignore.

Deborah commented on her blog that Tung-Hui had an unusual and almost offhand reading style, and I agree. I think it's because his poems often contain lines that are so simple and forceful that he is wary of seeming melodramatic--for example, his poem "School of Taxidermy":

Listen, see that boy who discovers
a dead squirrel at the foot of the tree,
he thinks it is worth something,
he thinks he will skin it and they
will have a fair and sell it. And he
tells his friend and his friend is
excited, too. Then night falls and
they return to fetch the broken
corpse which is encrusted like
a jewel with moss or a cake with
crumbs, the maggots white,
swarming, churning away
the squirrel’s eyes. And he does
not know how to rid himself
of it now that he has it.

That boy is me I was that boy


As a reader Tung-Hui wants to keep things casual and not pretentious, which I empathize with, but he risks seeming to dismiss his own poem before it even ends. That said, the work itself is beautiful, smart, and bracing--I'd unhesitatingly recommend either his first book from University of Georgia, or the new one from Ausable (Mine, pictured here, which won the Eisner Prize). And the only other poet I can think of who has that same strange way of reading his work is Charles Wright...not bad company to be in.

-May 14 at Chapters, with Robert Hass: I'd never had the opportunity to see Bob Hass in person before, and he was absolutely charming as he read from a collection of his Poet's Choice columns, which ran in the Washington Post Book World some years ago. One of the best selections was on Ko Un, the Korean poet, monk, and dissident, who committed to a "Ten Thousand Lives" project, writing a poem for each person he had ever met, as a way to maintain sanity during a long imprisonment. Ko Un read at the Folger a couple of years ago and if you've never seen a copy of Traveler Maps, a limited edition book that captures some of the Ten Thousand Lives poems, I highly recommend it as a work of verbal and visual beauty.

We've had a number of Poet's Choice columnists since Hass, and though all have been very skillful, I was amazed to look back and realize how much personal detail he invested in his columns. One of my favorites is a "Christmas" essay in which he reminisced on Boxing Day in 1970s England, and enjoying the lyrics of Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter in the company of friends. Hass is also unapologetically political, then and now: his platforms on supporting education and the environment are persuasive, but I'm sure the Post must have been a little nervous to give him such a big megaphone. He puts his money where his mouth is, spending time each year on the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival.

I just came away from this reading really *liking* the guy. Hard to believe that the author of a prodigy stroke like Field Work would also be someone fun to have a beer with at the end of a day.

-May 13 at the Iota, with Ellen Cole and...me: Oh my goodness, what can I say? Given that it was Mother's Day I didn't expect a crowd--a ridiculous number of my area poet friends have also become mothers in the past year or two--so it was a delight to have a packed house. High school folks, college folks, family, friends from past workshops--thank you, thank you. I read exclusively from the April poems and had to adjust my timing--encountering, for really the first time, a significant amount of laughter in response to the poems (laughing with, not at, thank goodness). A bit of a challenge--usually I'm much more practiced with my delivery--but such a thrill. Ellen had a great set of poems, my favorites relating to the burning down of her house about a year ago (talk about salvaging some good from a bad situation). Miles was a great host and the open mic was also very strong (featuring uppity young ladies like my sister and Alanna of Poetry Out Loud fame). This will go down as one of my favorite readings, no question.

Okay, a sunny and only mildly humid day awaits. Off I go--

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

...well, howdy. Nice to see you again. Mr. Thorburn re-tagged me some time ago for 5 songs to knock my socks off, so I will start things off by offering:

-"Gnossienne no.1" by Erik Satie (most recently used on the soundtrack to The Painted Veil, which as adaptations go was very very good.)

-"Rise" by Bitch (formerly of Bitch & Animal, Bitch plays a mean electric violin and...wait for it...ukulele. But not on this track. She also tends to show up in strange places, like a Bright Eyes music video or the movie Shortbus. You shall know her by her multicolored dreads and Rainbow Brite socks.)

-"Blue Angel" by Rose Polenzani (Another musician I've had the pleasure of splitting a bottle of wine with, Rose will be part of a house concert in DC the evening of Thursday, June 7...if you're interested contact Three Word Productions).

-"Snow is Gone" by Josh Ritter (I've already gushed about Ritter's latest album, "The Animal Years," but this is from "Hello Starling," an earlier record.)

-And though it's on the beaten path, the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil." Because that lyric about Anastasia screaming in vain makes me pause every time. And while I don't worship at the feet of Tony Hoagland, I do think there's a bit more room for cruelty in art.