Draft of the Week, #4.

I was unable to have my laptop repaired today, though I’ve been promised Tuesday — I warned him that if I continue to have  to use it at a 45 degree angle or less I will soon develop a humpback.  You try it and tell me how it feels.

Everything takes longer this way, but I have nevertheless finished this week’s poem, and rewarded myself with chocolate and a cup of hot tea.  There are many reasons I write, and maybe some post soon I’ll enumerate some of them, but not least among them is how truly awesome it feels  to have a new poem.

We’re off on a familial day trip on Sunday, so probably this’ll come down on Monday:

{poof!}

Poem & LSU Press.

I feel very fatigued this week (or, as Bugs Bunny would say, “fa-ti-gewd”), but I think I’ve finished the revisions on my new poem. I think. I’m going to live with it a little while longer without touching it, and then see how I feel.

In the meantime, because I don’t have enough brainpower or energy to actually write anything, I’ll tell you about the great poetry list Louisiana State University Press has coming up in the fall. LSU can always be counted on to publish a solid poetry list — it’s actually all I order from their catalog for the store. This fall, their list includes:

  • Figure Studies, by Claudia Emerson, whose last book, Late Wife, won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
  • Whirl is King: Poems from a Life List, by Brendan Galvin, “gathers forty-three of his bird poems about herons, owls, shorebirds, warblers, raptors, wrens, and other exotic visitors blown in by wind and storm.”
  • Myself Painting, by Clarence Major.
  • The Snow’s Music, by Floyd Skloot.
  • Time and the Tilting Earth, by Miller Williams.

But I must say, it’s a good thing I’m already familiar with these poets, because the excerpts of poems LSU included in the catalog were not exactly impressive. The books themselves look to be excellently designed, however.

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My general malaise probably also has to do with the kind of stasis a bunch of my submissions are currently suffering through. All this waiting can be exhausting.

NaPoWriMo Redux.

Our downstairs neighbor moved, taking our wireless with her, though we were unaware that she was our source until we suddenly had no internet — hence my silence here since the new month began.

We took the bull by the horns, nasty beast, and signed up for a wireless account of our very own, which we’re sharing with our lovely other downstairs neighbors, who are helping defray the expense. Which is most welcome, as we’re expecting our budget to start bursting at the seams toward the end of the year, so any proactive measures we can take now to shore it up would be good. But more on that some other time.

NaPoWriMo is over for the year, and I’m sorry to say that I never did complete my own personal goal of 15 poems. However, 12 poems, especially 12 poems that are definite keepers, is an amazing tally in itself, for me, and I’m very happy about that.

Honestly, I ended up writing more than I dreamed I’d be able to, more than I’ve ever written in 4 (or more) weeks’ time. So while I’m not exactly singing “We are the Champions,” I’m pleased. I don’t think I can continue that level of productivity, it’s simply too much for every day life. I was never very good at making all the pieces fit, there’s always one or two left stranded, and since Vincent was born it’s only become more difficult.

NaPoWriMo proved very useful in helping me kick-start my poetry practice. For me, it’s not about how many poems, but finding that creative flow again. And again. Consistency.

With a vacation thrown in every now and again. Because we all need a break once in a while, even from the things we love. Most especially from the things we love.

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The Collected Poets Series reading last week with Frannie Lindsay and Alicia Ostriker was phenomenal, as expected. Another interesting mix.

What I particularly appreciate about these readings is that any and all listeners are invited to join us at the pub across the bridge after the readings, to have a drink, a bite to eat, and chat with the poets. It’s so inclusive and welcoming, a very different experience from other readings I’ve attended where you generally need to already have a personal connection in order to be invited out with the poet/s after the event.

Strangely enough, audience members thus far have been too shy to actually take us up on the invitation as of yet. But I like that the invitation still stands. I don’t think you could do more to polish the patina of POETRY from poetry.

NaPoWriMo Draft 12.

Last night I went to hear Gabriel Fried read at Amherst College. I really like his book, Making the New Lamb Take (Sarabande Books, 2007), so I was excited to go, though exceptionally tired. I’m glad I exerted the effort. He’s very sweet, and his reading style conversational. And he has the most amazing head of red hair! Totally unexpected. I don’t know why, but there’s something very disarming about a red-haired man. Maybe because usually it’s genuine. And his is very red, that rare kind of red, not merely strawberry.

Many poems in his collection deal with Biblical themes, and it was surreal to watch him read one of my favorite poems, “Abel, after,” which imagines Abel reborn as a lamb in Cain’s flock, while Gabriel’s head glowed in the spotlight, haloed in fire.

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Busy manual labor kind of day at the bookstore, working on returns, always sad business. This draft is slight as a result, but I hope not too flimsy for you. Amazing the kind of difficulty I have writing something even as small as this. Anyway, for your temporary pleasure:

[…gone…]

NaPoWriMo Draft 11.

Revisions were indeed the focus this weekend. My output hasn’t been as great as many of the folks participating in NaPoWriMo, but I’m happy to say that I’m pretty pleased with everything I’ve written. Hubris maybe, or just infatuation with my new loves, but right now, yeah.

Until today. I guess this is more of a mood piece, and I’m not terribly comfortable writing so abstractly, but it’s what I’ve got, and I worked on it too damn long to throw it away. Of course, it could be the mood itself that puts me off. Maybe I’ll cannibalize parts for another poem later. As it stands now, for a short time, etc. etc. etc. :

[…gone…]

NaPoWriMo Draft 10.

Yes, it’s April 17, which means I’m far far behind, but I can’t believe I’m about to post my tenth poem this month! Especially after the week I’ve had. Vincent is quite recovered, back to daycare tomorrow (Huzzah!), and I rejoin the bookshop in the midst of its regularly scheduled programs. Vincent is utterly stir-crazy, driving us batty, so without further ado, for a little bit (the formatting isn’t coming out quite right, but I’m done fiddling):

[…gone…]

NaPoWriMo Draft 9.

Vincent could be & has been worse, but darling boy is still unwell. In between the interludes of obvious illness, he is variously rambunctious and lethargic. Irony of ironies: Nature has chosen this Week of the Influenza Outbreak to spring into Full Spring with gusto.

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The moving-on-now-revise-later aspect of NaPoWriMo does not come naturally to me, but instead of working on “Gravity,” yesterday’s poem, tonight I finished another draft. More on that later. But in this vein of drafts: for the last few months I’ve been slowly exploring a fascinating book, Black Lightning: Poetry-in-Progress, edited by Eileen Tabios (Temple University Press, 1998), unfortunately out of print now. I bought mine at this great used bookstore in Hatfield, Troubadour Books, nearly two years ago.

It’s a daunting book, oversized. The editor, with a selection of poets (such as Timothy Liu and Kimiko Hahn, to mention the two that especially struck me), explores the revision process of several poems, from actual drafts, first second third etc, sometimes composites of several, to the final poem, discussing the choices within each poem with the poet! It’s an utterly unique fly-on-the-wall view of a variety of poetic processes — something I find infinitely interesting — and it’s no overnight read, either! Like most writer-types, I suspect I’m strange & perhaps even doing everything wrong, and it reminds me that every process is a singular one. And following these amazing creative minds as they revise is both amazingly reassuring and revelatory.

On to my draft. Per usual, for a short time only:


[…gone…]

Andrea Cohen & Memorious

I’m now 4 poems behind — haven’t managed to write another poem since finishing the Pleiades poems — but I’m trying not to get too worked up about it. I’ve really enjoyed being so poetry-centric, and I’m happy with what I have written, but I have to say, between a full-time job, Vincent, poetry readings, & NaPoWriMo, my husband has been seriously neglected. So the next thing I need to accomplish this month is not only re-finding my writing practice, but also how to maintain it without exhausting myself and alienating Lance.

One of the aspects of NaPoWriMo that’s been really fun is reading all the drafts posted at various participating poets’ blogs, and reading about their various practices. Some poets, like Diane Lockward, seem to have a process like mine, long & tedious. Others, like Reb Livingston, just let it rip, which I find utterly terrifying. I’m not afraid of the Very Bad Draft, but I certainly don’t want to expose them for general reading. I posted my Pleiades, but they were very very far from first drafts — which is why I’m exhausted.

I’m going to try to keep it up, taking as my example all these amazing poets, who lead lives just as busy.

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I’ve been reading Andrea Cohen’s The Cartographer’s Vacation (Owl Creek Press, 1999), and, liking it immensely, I of course Googled her, which then led me to the online journal Memorious, which published some of her poems in a couple issues. This is an unknown journal to me, and considering the caliber of the poetry they publish, I’m so surprised I’ve never heard of them — their newest issue includes Steven Cramer and Bob Hicok, for crying out loud! Check them out, you’ll be glad you did. At the very least, read Andrea Cohen’s poems.

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For crying out loud.

One of Lance’s exclamations, the phrase that’s not full of curse words that he utters in moments of panic/anger/bewilderment, the phrase that amuses me to no end, is, “Oh my Jesus!”

It’s funny to me because we were both raised Catholic, and even though we no longer attend church or do anything related to religion, everyone knows being Catholic never really leaves you in many regards, including this one — it just seems so outrageous that he’d reference Jesus in tense situations.

And I keep picturing Vincent picking up on it. I don’t know what would be worse: being in the grocery store & Vincent suddenly crying, “For f***’s sake!” (mine) or “Oh my Jesus!”