May 29, 2008

Viper Thursday. Or Maybe Rum Thursday.

Thanks to Ravi, the folks at Drunken Boat, and everyone who came out to the KGB Bar on Friday. Thanks to Carly for being an awesome host (in the midst of tons going on in her life), and specifically bringing a mini bottle of Tabasco to her bar so she could make me a down n' dirty martini. Thanks to Belcourt for the braised octopus and fries with chipotle ketchup, and to Rosewater for the brunchtime "duck hash." Thanks to Ali and Jordan for joining us for cocktails. Thanks to everyone who bought a book (enough to pay for the aforementioned meals). As whirlwind NYC trips go, it felt like a particularly satisfying one. Well, except for the drunk who belched from his Amtrak seat behind me the whole ride home.

An aside: I never realized how small the KGB Bar would be. It looms so large in the mythos of Manhattan's poetry scene! But they won me over with their selection of Baltic dark beers.

Emerging from my still-ibook-less daze, I made it out last night to Kensington Books for Jean Nordhaus (author of Innocence) and John Surowiecki (author of The Hat City After Men Stopped Wearing Hats). I recommend both collections (full disclosure: I edited the latter one). John read from a book forthcoming with Word Tech and a still-developing manuscript with the unforgettable title of The Vomiting Bride. Those poems are taking risks; I like them. Kensington Books is a cute little store on an Antique Row, though the periodic passing trains make quite a racket (and everytime we close the door to shut out the noise, the little tin "OPEN" sign makes even more racket).

On Tuesday the City Paper posted this nice profile on the winners of the Egen Exchange Award. Also on the topic of hometown love: I walked into the Olsson's Bookstore by Dupont Circle to find a half-dozen copies of my book on the poetry shelf, cover-out. Hooray! So if you're local and would like to buy a copy, I encourage you to give them your business.

Has anyone else read Mary Karr's book Viper Rum, with the closing essay "Against Decoration"? It first appeared in Parnassus. Very hard-edged (and insightful, I think) critique of the trend of "decoration" and needlessly ornamental language in contemporary poetry. Karr doesn't hesitate to name names, calling out Amy Clampitt, James Merrill, and Rosanna Warren (she also praises a few folks, particularly Seamus Heaney for his "Clearances" sonnet series).

I'm not prepared to say that I buy the essay's argument whole cloth, but I did find some really valuable points being made--and being made with a fearlessness that was liberating. Just last night I was talking to a friend who mentioned his love of Wallace Stevens. Stevens was a consumate image-maker. But so often descriptive language is mistaken as being synonymous with imagery in contemporary poems, when really that's just a lazy substitute, an approximation of what-can-be-observed for what-must-be-forged. God save us from another static landscape poem! I feel like that's what Karr is getting at here, imploring us: In every poem, make something. Make it new.

May 23, 2008


Remember how I said I felt cagey, waiting for "something"? Well that something long-faithful ibook died. Poof. Ooof. Taking all my emails, documents, itunes purchases, etc. with it (yes, I had it backed up, but only partially).

While I'm in New York they'll be recovering the data, and I look forward to a Monday of computer-shopping. But in the meantime: if we've been emailing back and forth and now you see me go quiet for a few days, you know the reason.

It's not editorial! It's technical. It's not you, it's me. = )

May 22, 2008

In New York Friday night?

Because this is gonna be sweet...

Drunken Boat Launch Party
Friday, May 23rd, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
85 West 4th St NYC 10003

Join Drunken Boat, international online journal of the arts, for a special launch party to celebrate Issue#9, dedicated to the Panliterary Awards, Poetics and a Mis/Translation folio. Come experience writers and multimedia artists Sandra Beasley, Rand Richards Cooper, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Alena Hairston, Karla Kelsey, Steve Langan, Hermine Meinhard, Terese Svoboda, Peter Yumi and Jonathan Zalben perform new work.

Free and Open to the Public!

May 18, 2008


And on the seventh day, we rested. Kinda.

We have almost closed on the Summer issue of the Scholar. I have almost fully shaken off the cold I caught ten (10!) days ago. I almost picked up a hangover from last night's glorious wedding, but a huge bowl of oatmeal headed off any big headache. Steph's bachelorette thingamajig: done. Jessica's lovely going-away party, complete with gin, Sam Cooke, and green Gummi Bears: done.

So I was almost able to relax today. But not quite. I had a restlessness that reading the full Sunday paper, going to the Farmer's Market, and two episodes of The Wire just couldn't cure. I don't know what it is that I'm waiting for, but I'm waiting for...something.

Let me rewind by a week and say that I had the pleasure of two poetry readings last weekend, one at Iota (Mother's Day) and one at the Writer's Center, in celebration of 32 Poems magazine and with music from The Caribbean. For the latter, the poets got to hang with the cool kids for the evening: our "stage" was all set up with their amps and drums and red-hued lighting. Bernie and Deb both read great selections of their own work and work by past 32P contributors. It's a rare opportunity to read with people whose work you really KNOW, to hear something and to be able to recall an earlier draft or a workshop discussion. These friendships are really precious to me, both because they're cool chicks--the kind of people you can have a beer with and laugh, and laugh hard--but also because we are becoming part of the institutional history, the shared memory within the DC poetry scene. And that feels good.

We even won over a few people who turned out just for the music--which is the true compliment. I read the capybara poem. You can never go wrong with a capybara poem, right? Paging Jason Bredle?

May 15, 2008

May 13, 2008

Coming all the way from the UK...

If you're in the DC area, I help coordinate this for the Arts Club...

Jenny Uglow,
Winner of 2007 National Award for Arts Writing,
to Give Reading on
Monday, May 19 at 7:00 pm

Public reading by Jenny Uglow, author of Nature's Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, winner of the National Award for Arts Writing, one of the largest monetary prizes in the US for a single book, given in recognition of excellence in writing about the arts for a broad audience, sponsored annually by the Arts Club of Washington.

Free Admission

The Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street NW, Washington, DC. (202) 331-7282, ext. 15. Foggy Bottom or Farragut North Metro stop.

For more information: 202-331-7282 x 15,

Nature's Engraver recounts the life and achievements of the man who produced, in early 19th century Britain, the first Field Guide to birds for ordinary people, illustrated with woodcuts of remarkable accuracy and beauty. These woodcuts, in turn, influenced book illustration for all time. Living and working at a time of rapid social change and industrialization, Bewick was a fascinating man: working class, liberal (even radical in some of his politics), and amazingly talented. His evocations of birds helped to widen appreciation for the natural world, and the preservation of land, among people of all classes.

The judges wrote, “Nature’s Engraver is engaging, subtle and instructive. Uglow’s plain, richly elegant sentences present a career that, fascinating in itself, becomes a way of thinking about all art: the tools, the materials, the personality and the surroundings, all interacting with the artist’s craving to make a new reality. Uglow’s insightful treatments of material like the life of apprentices, the nature of early children’s books, the fashion for 'peasant poets' make this vivid biography a work of cultural history as well.”

Jenny Uglow is an editor at Chatto & Windus and lives in Canterbury, England. Her book The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 1730–1810 won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 2002 and the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for history from International PEN in 2003. Her biographies Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories and Hogarth: A Life and a World were both finalists for the Whitbread Prize for biography. She comes to the Arts Club having just been presented with the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England on May 16.(How cool is that? -SB)

Made possible in part by a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington.


May 12, 2008


Oh my goodness, this rain. It is never-ending!

Thanks to everyone who braved the elements to come out to the Iota reading on Sunday; and thanks to everyone who rocked the Writer's Center on Friday. A more thorough report on those later...I'm a bit pressed for time in my actual job, as we close on our summer issue.

But for now, please go check out the latest issue of BLACKBIRD. The editors were kind enough to include my work in their "Introductions" loop of emerging writers...

...and while you're at it, the latest DIAGRAM is now up.

May 07, 2008

Friday Night Rock; Sunday Night Roll

5/9 UPDATE: Looks like Deb Ager will be reading poetry tonight as well. Seriously, folks. This one is not to be missed.

So while passing through the Dupont Circle Olsson's bookstore, I came upon a stack of postcards that looked like this...

My first thought was "hey, that's Deb Ager!"

My second thought was "...and this is an ad for our reading!"

A celebration of 32 Poems
with Sandra Beasley, Bernadette Geyer, and Deb Ager
with music from The Caribbean

-on Friday, May 9, 2008 at 8 PM-

The Writer's Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD
#(301) 654-8664

...and as if that weren't enough, I'll be reading again on Sunday:

May 11, 2008 (Mother's Day) - 6 PM
As part of the IOTA Reading Series, with open mic to follow
At Iota Club and Cafe
2832 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Virginia

...come on, come out. You know you wanna.

May 04, 2008

Questions and Answers

Thanks to Dustin Brookshire (editor of the newly launched LIMP WRIST) for inviting me over to his blog to answer the question:

Why Do I Write?

Yesterday: The Kids in the Hall's "Live as We're Gonna Get" tour.

Today: lilacs from the Farmer's Market. A stirfry of peppers, swiss chard, and mustard plant, complete with little yellow mustard flowers and chili oil. Waiting to be read: Brenda Shaughnessy's Human Dark with Sugar.

Tomorrow: birthday.

Tuesday: Hosting a very cool (fiction!) reading, so come if you can...

Flirting with the Masters: Fiction Writers on F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - 7 p.m.
The Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street NW (near GWU)
Free and open to the public, reception to follow.

On Tuesday, May 6, the Arts Club of Washington will host acclaimed fiction writers LESLIE PIETRZYK and MATTHEW KLAM as they talk about the personal impact of reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, then share selections from their own work. This event is affiliated with the 2008 NEA “Big Read.”

LESLIE PIETRZYK is the author of the novels Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day, which was selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club and was featured in the Borders Bookstores “Original Voices” series. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes and has received awards from Shenandoah, Columbia, Descant, and other journals. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences.

MATTHEW KLAM is the author of Sam the Cat, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an O'Henry Award, a Whiting Writer's Award, and a PEN/Robert Bingham Award, and has received grants from the NEA and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He is a contributing writer to GQ Magazine, and has taught creative writing in many places including University of Michigan and American University, and is a Visiting Professor at Southampton College in New York.

Big Read - D.C. is a literacy event presented by the Humanities Council of Washington, DC and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. DC is reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald from April 24 - May 24, 2008, as part of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. For a calendar specific to DC-area events, visit

The Arts Club of Washington is at 2017 I Street NW, near Foggy Bottom/GWU and Farragut West metro. Headquartered in the James Monroe House, a National Historic Landmark, the Club was founded in 1916 and is the oldest non-profit arts organization in the city. The Club mission is to generate public appreciation for and participation in the arts in the Nation’s capital, through ongoing educational programs that include literary events, art exhibitions, and musical and theatrical performances.

For more information on the Arts Club, visit