October 30, 2010

The Trick of Treating

In honor of Halloween weekend--a time when sweet treats are on everyone's mind, even that of an allergy girl--I'd like to a few posts from my friend Meaghan Mountford's blog, "the decorated cookie." Meaghan and I have been friends since we shared workshops in the MFA program at American University. She's pretty much one of the most creative--not to mention funny, kind, and grounded--women I know. She's also the only person outside Crown who has read all of Don't Kill the Birthday Girl, which kinda makes her My Hero/Goddess/Savior/Etc.

For the last few months Meaghan has been a successful competitor over on Project Food Blog. As they go into challenge #7 of 10, Meaghan took a risk--and I think, a successful one--by showing her "food network star" skills via a stop-motion video of a marshmallow playing dressup. If you're a fan of the work, consider casting a vote when it opens up on November 8.

Check out these links to the decorated cookie's "All Mason-Jar Meal" (aka P.F.B. Challenge #6):

...the aforementioned "Marshmallow Dressup" video short:

...and a "Zombie Marshmallow" extravaganza:

[Images credited to M. Mountford. What else can I say? She is profoundly awesome.]

October 29, 2010


For 48 hours I holed up in a friend's living room, working on new poems to read at Thacker Mountain Radio. What a great show--stellar house band (The Yalobushwackers), warm and witty host in Jim Dees, a crowd so big and enthusiastic the Fire Marshal came along and hassled us. They even turned on the disco ball quietly ensconced in the eaves of Off Square Books. Made me proud to be part of something in Oxford. Yet again.

Seemed like the new work went over well. One was inspired by the fact that the show will be broadcast on Mississippi Public Broadcasting this Halloween weekend. I'll share the poem here, at least for a little while...

* poof *

October 26, 2010


My laptop is busted. As in, physically broken--one thin strip of the bottom-casing has stripped away, revealing an unfortunate (and I imagine, extremely water-vulnerable) crevice leading to under the keyboard. I've only had this iBook for a bit beyond a year! Part of me thinks This is happening WAY too fast. Part of me thinks This laptop had a whole book written on it, and I feel a perverse twinge of pride for actually wearing the darn thing out

Either way, though, the money to replace it is lacking. And that's very scary. As a writer, when you don't have a "day job" office with a secondary computer system (or even a cell phone that can receive email), your computer IS your career. 

All my worrying will have to wait, though. The week holds two readings--tonight's gig at Davis-Kidd in Memphis, and a small guest spot on Thacker Mountain Radio this Thursday. I've been working on something new for Thacker Mountain, but we shall see if it feels ready to debut. It's so tough when you're part of a larger line-up (four poets is typical or, in this case, a couple of other writers and some musicians). For those who have heard you read before, you want to offer someone new. For those who might otherwise never hear you, you want to break out your "best," most failsafe work. 

Plan B: A little harmonica, perhaps some tap-dance. Though tap-dance might not be the best plan for a radio show. Sigh. 

October 24, 2010

On the Road Again

From Washington, DC, to Charlotte: 7 hours. (Leading into a sublime day-and-a-half as the Visiting Writer at Charlotte Country Day School.)

From North Carolina to South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi: 10 hours. 

Sodas consumed: 5. Almonds consumed: 63. Small McDonald's fries (with ketchup): 1.

Now I'm in Oxford. Things I've missed: walking around the Square, Snack Bar oysters, drinking Red Stripe in a scenic backyard. New things: the Motel Art Show, and making friends with writers even newer to the Ole Miss community. How funny that on the day I arrive in town an interview should be published in which I talk about....no longer being in town. Nonetheless, thanks to Julie Ann and Danielle Sellers over at the Country Dog Review for the feature, which just went live as part of the Fall 2010 issue. The opening questions:

 Julie Ann: As the 4th Summer Poet-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, you passed the sultry months of June and July in the former home of Faulkner’s mistress.  How did that context, historical or otherwise, influence or inspire you?
Sandra Beasley: Having spent my undergraduate years at the University of Virginia, this wasn't the first time I had lived in William Faulkner's shadow. Luckily it's a big, deep shadow with intriguing depths: no one understood the need for solitude even among a crowd--especially among a crowd--better than Faulkner. I loved seeing the town through the prism of his experience (hard to believe he used to work nights at that old power plant in the middle of Ole Miss's campus) and I so enjoyed getting to know Dean Faulkner, Elizabeth Shiver, and others who had known him in life. 
It's true that Joan Williams was Faulkner's mistress. But she was also a writer, a Memphis novelist, who found a whole other identity in a companionship with Seymour Lawrence that lasted until his death. Lawrence was the distinguished independent book publisher who bought the house across the street from Rowan Oak that is today known as Grisham House. So I'd like to think of the house as a home to second chances. That's what it was for me.
JA: Your popularity in Oxford was undeniable.  Cool local characters extended countless invitations to happenings – from Sunday blues at Foxfire and the Rhythm Festival to coffees and whiskeys at all the best haunts in town. How has your social life been different since leaving town?   
SB: That's too generous to call my popularity "undeniable"; it may just be that I knew to have good beer and bocce available at all hours. Still, I'll take it, just as I tried to take every invitation that came my way as the summer-poet-in-residence. Oxford's local unofficial ambassadors--Ron Shapiro, Richard Howorth, and Chico Harris all leap to mind--are rightfully proud of your town and the neighboring Delta culture, so I always had something to do on my radar. I was very lucky to find so many friends so quickly. 
Since returning to DC, what I've missed is the organic texture of that social scene. It's not that Washington doesn't have its own great oysters or live music, but it doesn't have them on the simple scale of knowing where to walk and find folks on any given night. In DC it takes umpteen emails to arrange to hang out with someone--and you know you probably won't manage to get together again for another month. I treasure the critical mass of the crowd at Square Books, City Grocery, and the Blind Pig, and I miss the ease of spending an evening wandering from place to place. 

...all true. Which is why I came back to Mississippi. Read the full interview here.   

October 20, 2010

P&W! Folio! Road trip! Many exclamation points!

Some months ago, Poets & Writers interviewed me in celebration of its 40th Anniversary; apparently, I am their featured clip of the week. Happy Birthday, P&W! You just get prettier with each passing year. Here I am, waxing, um, poetic-ish. 

I try not to be vain about these things, but why does YouTube always choose a screen grab of me with my eyes closed? 


Today I get on the road--first to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I will spend a couple of days as the visiting writer at Charlotte Country Day School. After that is is on to Oxford, MS, where I'll daytrip for a reading at the Memphis Davis-Kidd on Tuesday, October 26, and record a small guest spot for Thacker Mountain Radio at Square Books on Thursday, October 28. Pause for small-town Halloween interlude, ideally involving vast quantities of pumpkin cremes (like candy corn, but so much better). Then I'll stop off on my way back to DC for classroom visits at the University of Virginia and a high school in Woodstock, Virginia. Five gigs. Two weeks. Lord, I hope I packed enough clean laundry.


What I am listening to right this very second: Peggy Lee's "Why Don't You Do Right?"


Oh, and before I forget--start readying your drafts. FOLIO has a literary contest coming up, and the judge is no other than the fabulous Naomi Shihab Nye. I edited FOLIO eons ago, while an MFA student at American University. I'm proud to note that their pages still use the fonts Paulette and I picked out. Anyway, send in! The details:


FOLIO, a literary journal at American University, is celebrating its MFA program’s 30th anniversary with a poetry contest that will be judged by award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye (author of You and Yours, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, among others).

Entries must be postmarked by Monday, February 14, 2011.

Please observe the following:

• Submit up to 3 poems, a brief cover letter containing your name, address, email address, and day and evening telephone numbers, as well as a list of the submitted poem in the order in which they appear. Do not include your name on the poems themselves, only on the cover sheet;

• You are welcome to submit more than once, provided you do so under separate covers, and pay a reading fee per entry (up to three poems);

• Send with your submission a $10 reading fee (check or money order and include a SASE to Folio, Department of Literature, Attn: Poetry Contest, American University, Washington, D.C. 20016;

• Current AU students are not eligible. Please do not send previously published poems.

Every contestant’s reading fee gets him or her a copy of the issue in which the winning entries will be published. All contest entries will also be considered for publication in FOLIO.

1st Prize: $500 / Honorable Mention: $100 / Honorable Mention: $100

It's a great magazine, and a great opportunity to have your work read by a contemporary poetry goddess. Please spread the word~

October 18, 2010

10 Small Forms of Wonder

Some days you have to pause and recognize that, for all its flaws and exhaustions, it is an amazing world we live in. Need specifics? Here we go~

-There are people in this world whose livelihoods are based in the industries of windchimes, DJ'ing, and peanut butter. 

-Wombats are categorized in two main categories: common, and "hairy-nosed."

-Waggle your fingers in some random/rapid range of motion you haven't otherwise used this week. Hadn't you almost forgotten your hands COULD do that?

-Someone bothered to define the anapest.

-You will someday love someone who, when they first came into the world, was a complete stranger whose birth meant nothing to you. Imagine all the things that had to line up for you  to know each other now. 

-A healthy birch tree can produce as many as a million seeds in a single year. 

-Eva Cassidy's vocals--live, mygodshecoulddothislive--on "Autumn Leaves":

-Tater tots.

-Any and every day, people can make videos like this...all it takes is a high altitude weather balloon, a camera you're not afraid to lose, and a dream.

High Altitude Balloon from David Stillman on Vimeo.

-Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia: 18 spires, three grand facades, Cubist and Symbolist detailing. Still a work in progress, to be completed in 2026--a full century after the death of its architect. Of the construction time for the Catholic cathedral, prolonged even in Gaudi's life, he said only..."My client is not in a hurry."

October 15, 2010


Lovely: I am profiled as the "October Spotlight" over at Write From Wrong.

Lovely: Martha Silano writes about teaching "Cherry Tomatoes" over at Blue Positive.

I am just returning from a dash to the post office, to make a 5 PM postmark deadline on a fellowship application. The October wind has blown my hair into total disarray, I'm wearing a favorite shirt that has a bleached spot on it (damn kitchen cleaner!), and--given I never got around to making myself up in the first place today, other than putting my contacts in--I'm feeling a bit ragged.

Ah well. Today is a day to recover. Yesterday I drove to Annapolis for a visit at the Naval Academy, a respite at B B Bistro that featured a bowl of amazing homemade soup (chickpeas, spinach & sundried tomatoes--support your independent coffee shops), and a cozy evening reading at The Annapolis Bookstore (support your independent bookstore, too). The audience at the academy was fantastic, including a classroom of students who had NOT chosen the major of English, not one of them. So I had to seduce them with a "Love Poem for Wednesday" & a "Love Poem for College," and break down the myth of the Minotaur beat-by-beat so that "The Minotaur Speaks" made sense...which is as it should be. Poets should have to work hard.

One of the students pointed out something I'd never thought about (at least, not consciously): all of the amusement park rides in "Another Failed Poem about the Greeks" come straight outta Kings Dominion. Which ideally gives the biographer something to play with someday, should I be lucky enough to merit one. But will anyone merit a biography, in the age of blogs and Facebook updates and aggressive self-reflection?

Ah well. Today is a day to recover. And watch as the wind blows the leaves against my balcony window again, again, again.

October 13, 2010

The Unemployment Show!

On Friday, October 1, I had the pleasure of driving up to Pittsburgh to be a guest on Dave English's "The Unemployment Show," which is hosted at the Schmutz Lodge on 5405 Broad Street (Garfield neighborhood, for those who know the city). 
We had amazing craft services via "The Goodie Truck," which pulled up to the Lodge an hour before the show to sell sweets.  
The three-story Lodge, which has uneven stairs, squeaky floors, a demonic resident cat named Toots, and a lot of charm, doubles as Dave's house. Dave--an incredibly talented puppeteer and artist in his own right--has generously turned his space into an artist-residency, meaning there was plenty of amazing work on display, both his and that of others. Like cork people. 

Or a chair-cum-attack dog. 

Or an embroidered tank. 
As for the show itself...We laughed, we cried, we gave away some strange prizes. We had a band playing over our heads. The full show can be viewed via the series of YouTube clips below. Enjoy!

October 10, 2010

Hijinks in My City

Between being on the road and moving Don't Kill the Birthday Girl through the first round of edits, I've been a little frantic disheveled busy. But when I learned an old friend's job was about to be sent him to the West Coast for four months, we decided a night out was in order. Off to the H Street neighborhood, an emerging section of Northeast DC.

The first time I ventured over there was a few years back, to hear Alexi Murdoch at the Rock & Roll Hotel. The strip was rough--my friend, working sound at the club that night, insisted on walking me just the three blocks back to my car. H Street has come a long way since then but there is still a lot of raw construction and empty store fronts. But there's also Sticky Rice, which serves sashimi and tater tots with equal flair--and hosts speed bingo Thursdays. Sidamo pours organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee. The chef at Granville Moore was featured in a Throwdown with Bobby Flay over his moules-frites...and our guy won. 

This fall, two of the early H Street mainstays--The Red & the Black, a New Orleans-style bar, and the burlesque-friendly and oddity-filled Palace of Wonders--are combining forces to reopen as "The Red Palace." There will be music and vaudeville; I hope they bring the novelty acts back. Nothing like a martini to be swallowed with a side of...swords. Or fire. 

Anyway, last night we went to Ethiopic. DC is renowned for its Ethiopian food, mostly available in a 9th & U Street NW DC neighborhood at the edge of Shaw sometimes referred to as "Little Ethiopia." Ethiopic isn't putting on any great pretensions--they left a bullet hole in the front door handle, evidence of the neighborhood's not-too-distant past--but they've distinguished themselves at the outset by furnishing their space with spare, modern wood furniture (though traditional messob woven-basket tables are available) and offering a menu that offers spicier variations on the traditional dishes.

I appreciated that their vegetarian dishes are all prepared vegan--butter is fairly prevalent in the cuisine, which usually keeps me away from the meat dishes. I got the sampler that included herbed collard greens, red lentils in red pepper sauce, tomatoes diced with garlic and jalapeno, potatoes simmered in curry, and (my favorite) yellow split peas. It's a slightly simplified variation on the dish shown here--image credit to James M. Thresher for The Washington Post, in conjunction with Tom Sietsema's June 2010 review

My friends had never eaten Ethiopian before, so I showed them the basics: ladling out an array of meat and veggies on the big round of bread that doubles as your plate; tearing off bits of the moist, chewy, slightly sour injera and combining pinches of different dishes; by the end nibbling on the "plate" itself, which will have sopped up any juices. So sloppy. So good. And African beer is never a bad idea, either. 

Afterwards we headed down nine blocks to H Street Country Club, whose astro-turfed portico hints at its prize jewel: an upstairs nine-hole mini golf course. Thought the putting greens are short, there's enough variety in the design to keep you interested, and the course's artsy sculptures all have a DC theme (K Street robot-lawyers; the undead Presidents; King Kong scaling the Washington monument). Fritz Hahn did a great play-by-play for The Washington Post and took this shot of a hole that combines two great icons--the majestic sculpture of "The Awakening" that used to live in Hains Point and now resides out by the National Harbor, and, um, politician Marion Barry. 

I was worried that on a Saturday night the crowd would be drunken and fratty, with long lines for each round of play, but not at all. We never had to wait for our turn, people were super-polite, and the house specializes in rather tasty high-end tequila cocktails. Afterwards, we played a few rounds of Skeeball downstairs--which at 50 cents a pop has to be the cheapest fun to be had in this city. 

Moral of the story*: get yourself to H Street! Those independent business owners need your patronage a lot more than Adams Morgan. There's even free shuttles that run from the Chinatown/Gallery Place metro station, so you can get there from the Yellow, Red, or Green lines. 

*Moral of the story (part two): I am a skeeball queen. 

October 08, 2010

TBD Does Story/Stereo

If you want a less-biased take than mine on the awesomeness that is Story/Stereo, check out this article by Ally Schweitzer of TBD. Here's the lede, plus a great photo (credit: TBD staff) of poet Allison Benis White preparing to read on stage...

Story/Stereo at The Writer's Center:
Why rock bands like to play poetry readings  
D.C. musician and producer Chad Clark wants to restore dignity to underground rock music.
"If you're in a rock band, you're traveling around in all these abject, scummy situations. [Rock music is] not treated as a high art form."
But putting underground rock music in a dimly lit auditorium, where a seated, presumably sober audience awaits their performance — now that's dignified. And we haven't even gotten to the poetry part yet.

Later in the article, I even make a cameo appearance:
At last month's event, the evening's ebullient MC, poet Sandra Beasley, scarcely masked her giddiness about sharing a stage with a bunch of rock dudes. "I wish I got to introduce the musical act!" she exclaimed. ("Musical act" being how a Barnard Women Poets Prize winner says "band.")
For the record, I'm not a total nerd. My wording was purposeful: I went with "musical act" because I knew that multiple incarnations of acts featuring John Davis (including a Q And Not U reunion) were about to come to the stage. But we had only advertised it in terms of the one band, Title Tracks, I didn't want to spoil the surprise.

Okay, for the record, I am a total nerd. I can own it.

[Thanks to TBD, full text HERE, and hope to see you at tonight's reading...]

October 05, 2010

Story/Stereo - This Friday, October 8

I host the Story/Stereo series at the Writer's Center, in which we pair two writers (chosen through our Emerging Voices fellowship competition) with a major DC musical force. We ask the writers to read about 15 minutes each--short & sweet. We ask the musicians to elaborate a bit more on their process than usual--to make the connection between their craft and the Center's focus on composition. Also, we ask them to rock the house.

Our next guests are...

-Poet Jenny Browne, author of At Once: Poems and The Second Reason, both from the University of Tampa Press. A former James Michener Fellow in Poetry at the University of Texas-Austin, she lives in San Antonio and teaches at Trinity University.

-Memoirist Jessica Handler, author of Invisible Sisters, one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “Eight Great Southern Books in 2009” and Atlanta Magazine’s “Best Memoir of 2009.” Handler teaches creative writing in Atlanta, Georgia.

-DJ Will Eastman, co-founder of U Street Music Hall and renowned force behind "Bliss," the monthly indiepop dance party held at the Black Cat ten years running.

All this talent will be coming together this Friday, October 8. It's a free show at 8 PM. You should be there! Especially if you haven't seen a Story/Stereo yet, which the Washington City Paper calls "our favorite free live-music program not set in the summer months." (Translation: Ok, ok, we're no Fort Reno Park Summer Concert Series. But I'd point out that unlike Fort Reno, we've got indoor plumbing.)

October 03, 2010

Today! Yesterday. Onward~

Oh: I'm reading at the Writer's Center today! Free and at 2 PM, details here.  I'll be opening for Ron Slate--a superb poet in town from Massachusetts, whose latest book is The Great Wave. Thought I might mix it up a bit, and read some "Chronic Medea" sonnets as well as selections from I Was the Jukebox.

Also, thanks to Philip Belcher and Daniel Casey's Gently Read Literature for a kind review of I Was the Jukebox, which included the following:

If Sandra Beasley’s first collection, Theories of Falling, showed something of this poet’s promise, her second collection and winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, I Was the Jukebox, makes clear that we are in the hands of a talented writer with a strong voice, a vivid imagination, and a bright future. This new collection is all about voice, and Beasley’s is unmistakable and clear.

Aw, I am blushing. You can read the whole review here.

I'll be posting at length about my recent trip to Pittsburgh, where I was a guest on "The Unemployment Show," hosted by my friend Dave English. Yesterday, Dave and I played hooky from our lives and went on a road trip. The destination: Frank Lloyd Wright's Kentuck Knob. Pictures don't really do the place justice, because Wright focused on seamlessly integrating structure and landscape. But here's a glimpse:

Afterwards they tried to tell us it was too late in the day to visit the Sculpture Meadow, but we were having none of that. Here we are, being one with the art:

Later, we stopped off in the small town of Ohiopyle. We watched the sun ebb over the Youghiogheny River. We ordered a couple of local-brew Troeg's Sunshine Pilsners, which were served to us in frosty mason jars. I was introduced to the concept of "French fry salad," which is apparently a concoction native to the Allegheny part of Pennsylvania. Happiness.