September 29, 2007

Better Things!

The Summer 2007 issue of Pebble Lake Review is now online at In this issue: Kristin Aardsma, Sandra Beasley, Hayan Charara, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Daphne Gottlieb, James Harms, Alex Lemon, Timothy Liu, Jeffrey McDaniel, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Amy Newman, Juliet Patterson, Jon Pineda, and many more.

Plus reviews of Glean by Joshua Kryah, Severence by Robert Olen Butler, Dirt and All Its Dense Labor by Gabriel Welsch, This Clumsy Living by Bob Hicok, and Vitreous by David Ray Vance.

...Thanks, Amanda, for including me in such a beautiful magazine!

September 27, 2007

What day is it?

To anyone I owe an email, I'm sorry.
To anyone I missed on Monday, I'm *really* sorry.

I have been...well, "sick" doesn't quite cover it. Fevered, bed-bound, I haven't had solid food since Sunday. This is not a weight loss plan I recommend. I made it through the horse races just fine, oddly enough, but I have missed everything--and I mean everything--since then. Back next week. I promise.

In the meantime, a very important local bookstore, Chapters, is in danger of closing. Technically, it WILL close--at its current location--but it is trying to raise the money to lease a new and improved space incorporating the bookstore into a larger non-profit Literary Arts Center. Find out how you can support their efforts HERE ... and think about attending one of their last two readings: tonight, featuring Stanly Plumly, or tomorrow (Friday), featuring Reuben Jackson and Kwame Dawes. Both at 7 PM, 445 11th Street NW (very close to Metro Center).

I cannot say loudly enough: Chapters is a treasured independent bookstore and a vital part of DC's literary and readings scene. Please support it if you can.

September 21, 2007

Taking It Off, Again

Monday night, I want to see you--yes, you--here:

Burlesque Poetry Hour

Please join Gilda and special guest host Delilah (that's me) in enticing Remica L. Bingham, Piotr Gwiazda and Dean Smith to take it off on Monday, September 24th. Reading will begin at 8:00 p.m. in The Dark Room at Bar Rouge (1315 16th Street NW, DC).

I know all the poets and they are great writers and polished readers. There will be hijinks. If you ask nicely, I might cut your hair.

Now...let the excitement begin. I just got my AWP Panel details:

Breaking Lines on the Battlefield: Poetry of Wartime
with Doug Anderson, Kevin Bowen, Brian Turner, and Susan Tichy
Saturday, February 2, 2008

...this is great. People might even be awake by 1:30! Back from lunch! Less hungover! As a first-time moderator I was sure that I'd have a 9 AM Thursday slot, and need to dangle juice and donuts to lure in an audience. Plus, this means I'll have a chance to do advance promoting and talk with the panelists. Big Apple, here I come!

Well, not yet. This weekend, I'll be at horse races in southern know you're a Southern girl when your cousins invite you to their farm to watch the races. I'm hoping for mint juleps.

September 13, 2007

On a Slightly Less Navel-Gazing Note

"The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost

...As reproduced in Legos by Bill Ward and Holly Ward. For more vignettes straight out of poems by Frost and A.E. Housman, go here.


A year ago I was in upstate New York at the Millay Colony. I would wake around 10 or 11 (I worked until 3 or 4 AM). During the day I would drive into Chatham or Hudson and walk around, look at antique shops and art galleries, have a beer and snap photographs of colorful window-shutters. By 6 I'd be back at the big house, sharing a huge salad with the other fellows, chatting about the one copy of the Sunday New York Times that we all shared. Every night I was drafting a poem, and whittling away at a longer, older manuscrpt (The Reveal) that would become Theories of Falling. My studio wall fluttered with pushpinned poems, which I moved around to create different orders and sections, alternating with photographs xeroxed from a Diane Arbus book I'd found in the Millay library.

There was a nervous energy to the month: this will matter. I found one local artist whose surreal photocollages I loved, and struck up a conversation with the gallery owner. When she asked what I was looking for I said "oh, I need cover art for my book," and though it was an *utter* bluff at that moment, it all seemed possible: there would be a book. It would need a cover.

At the end of the month, I came home and immediately sent the MS off to 2 places where I'd been a finalist before--the May Swenson Prize and the New Issues Poetry Prize, and Sarabande's open reading. A month passed. I found sloppy lines drafted in September's 2 AM haste. Sarabande rejected me based on the new poems. I reread older pages that I'd cut, and some were like workhorses: hefty, well-crafted, good magazine credits. I felt guilty for cutting them. I returned to my old title. All that nervous energy...faded. And right up until April of this year I was sending out a balanced, polished manuscript. But it was the MS I'd sent out early last October, with all of its newborn flaws and urgency, that would count.

Now, in the aftermath of April and August, it's another September. I'm on page 45 of another manuscript--drafting and scrapping and cutting and shuffling. There's no goldenrod here in DC, and no butterflies drifting over Edna's tennis court. These poems are strange and incantatory, populated by minotaurs and battlefields and orchids and hippogriffs. They are not personal, though they are human-hearted. But perhaps this work will matter. I hope this will matter.

September 09, 2007

Sunday, Sunday

Random aspects of loveliness: bought a handful of dahlias (pink and yellow) from the Farmer's Market, and from same market bought basil and heirloom tomatoes for the most basic of salads (slice, add salt and cracked pepper, dash of olive oil, enjoy). The peaches are ripe, the sun is shining, and the work I should be doing will just have to wait. Today is Adams Morgan Day, when my neighborhood celebrates...itself. Live music, craft vendors, and the usual siren call to buy large works of art which I have no room to hang in my apartment.

Also, a nice bit of (delayed) news--Doug Martin emailed to say that my poem "The Angels" (first featured in Coconut) will be in the anthology Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years, to be published by Snow*vigate Press. Yay!


The experience of evaluating fellowship applications (being on "the other side," so to speak) was illuminating. I can't say anything about the winners or alternates yet--only that the people named are very deserving, but there were also some very deserving people who won't be named, and that's an intrinsic flaw of the process. All six panelists were deeply invested in poetry, and to have the shared vocabulary of 52 sets of poems (some up to 30 pages in length)--and to then speak freely about our opinions on the work--was wonderful, and made me miss working on a literary journal. We each had our own varying relationships to academia (thank goodness) and our unique aesthetic biases (thank goodness).

Poetry's a small world, and when you're limiting it to a single state, you're going to see a lot of familiar names. But that didn't have the consequences one might fear. No one got a free pass based on reputation; the work had to be fresh, thoughtful, and show an evolving philosophy. No one was struck down for gossipy or unfairly subjective reasons. Project proposals mattered, even if the proposal was simply finding a sincere and original way to say "I need the breathing room this money would allow me." In some cases, a poet I knew by name only turned out to write work I loved; in some cases, work I was prepared to love, hoping to love, fell terribly flat. In some cases I abstained from voting based on personal affiliation/affection, and was then thrilled to listen to the other panelists admire and engage with the work without my (biased) help. The best moments were "wow"s invoked by poets I had never heard of--a post-MFA student, or a 50something coming back to writing--where even if the work didn't merit a fellowship this time around, one had the sense of a sneak peek at someone who would be making a difference in poetry 5 years from now.

A couple of suggestions I would make, for future applicants:

-Be focused in your project proposal. Don't say you'll use the money to do 90 things. If you offer a thematic project proposal in your Artist Narrative ("a chapbook on X"), include work samples that speak to that proposal. It's okay to say you need the money to support the basic expenses of living, but don't come off like a martyr. We've all been there.

-Include recent work in the sample, and make it clear that it is recent (either on a cover page or in the Artist Narrative). Don't be afraid to submit LESS then the work sample maximum, which right now is an absurdly large 30 pages. Including weak work will hurt you.

-If you are applying to a grant-giving organization with regional ties, include parts of your CV that demonstrate a commitment to that region--local readings, visits to area high schools, etc. Sometimes people offer an abbreviated version of accomplishments (major prizes, books, and academic positions only). Brevity IS something which the panelists appreciated (especially after oh, the 37th application)...but when we're down to the splitting hairs of tough decisions, if you want a fellowship from Virginia we'd like to see that you are, in fact, invested in Virginia in some fundamental way.

One of the four we named is someone who writes INCREDIBLE poems, but whose career has had a stop-and-start quality, with few publications or public appearances. These fellowships are intended for both "established" and "emerging" poets, so the poet was able to compete against people far more accomplished (by the numbers) and still come out in the top four. I really hope the nod of the committee encourages this poet to push through, keep writing, get that first book done. Emerge, damn it! The world is waiting for you!


Later today, I'll be reading (briefly) at the Iota Poetry Series:

6 PM (until 8) at Iota Club and Cafe
2832 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Virginia

All featured readers from the past year are invited to take part--should be a great lineup, so if you're in the neighborhood please stop on by.

September 05, 2007

I Can Take Only So Many Cans of Red Bull

I was up until 5:40 AM this morning, re-reviewing fellowship applications for the Virginia Commission for Arts 2008 Poetry Fellowships. The adjudication will be all day tomorrow in Richmond. I'll try to blog about it this weekend, if I can offer some usual observations while respecting the privacy of applicants.

If you know me, and applied, just assume your application went to the other panel! I can also abstain in cases of explicit bias.

September 01, 2007

Here we go again--

The draft-a-day project for August was a pretty damn good thing. I read (over and over) books by Paul Guest, Dan Chiasson, Dean Young, Mary Biddinger, Lisa Olstein, and Charles Simic. I built a 20 page manuscript up to 40 pages, which was my goal. I tweaked poems and began another round of journal submissions, which has already snagged two acceptances (yay!) from DIAGRAM and the Barn Owl Review.

Most importantly, I got to interact with these amazing poets on a daily basis: Oliver de la Paz, Nate McClain, Deborah Ager, Erika Meitner, Aimee Nez, Carly Sachs, Kelli Russell Agodon, Don Illich, and Kathi Morrison-Taylor.

Seeing their drafts (and sharing their frustrations with the encroachments of daily life) was deeply satisfying. Work kept me from going away to a colony or residency this year, but this feels like the next best thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who took part--or followed along and offered encouraging words.

And now: off to get suburned, play bocce, drink beer, and other forms of non-poetry. Have a ridiculous holiday weekend.