When the lights go on in the library

We go to the library three times a week most weeks, some days more than once. It’d be more, but the library’s only open three days a week.

This schedule is something my husband can never keep straight in his head, but we live so close to the library that he’s bound to look out the window and say, “Hey, the lights are on in the library — it must be open!”  Eureka!

We love our library. And our librarians, Laurie and Susie. And interlibrary loan. What a fantastic system!

My current borrows include The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry, coming to me all the way from Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL; and Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets, sent  from the Illinois State Library (And thank you to the blogosphere for alerting me to this book. Unfortunately, I can’t remember whose blog in particular wrote about this — I’m sorry! It was Jeannine! — thank you!).

And then there’s the book that belongs to my library itself, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. What an ambitious book, so clearly, intelligently written! I picked it up on Saturday, and am already almost done. Because there are so many threads to the history that Mukherjee is weaving together, there can be a fair amount of repetition from section to section, but it’s the perfect amount I think; we lay folks could otherwise find it impossible to follow the different terms and concepts as the author travels from researcher to patient to cancer cell and back.

I’d be interested in this book even if my mother weren’t ill. Who knew that such a disparate and far-ranging history could be so suspenseful?

Thanks for the memories, Rejection Edition.

One of the other things I neglect in order to focus on poems is this blog, and blogs in general. Sorry about that. On the up side, however, I wrote a new poem. I have one more small edit to make — which I’ve been thinking about since last night when Lance read it & pointed out that a line was confusing — and, okay, there’s an image near the end that I’m not entirely happy with yet & is acting as more of a placeholder until I come up the right-er one. But it’s pretty close to done, and I’m pretty close to happy with it. Which makes for a pretty perfect sort of day.


Literary Rejections on Display today is highlighting the new book, Other People’s Rejections by interviewing its author, Bill Shapiro. It’s an interesting interview, and he closes with this piece of advice:

Risk rejection… and save your rejection letters. No, no—not for me. For you! Not every writer will have the story about the 30 publishers who rejected them before landing on the best-seller list. That’s not what this is about. You’ll look back on the letters years down the line and see them as markers of your passion, your bravery.

Now I don’t know from bravery, but I’ve saved all my rejections since I began submitting too long ago.  I do think of them as “markers of [my] passion,” indicators of the seriousness I take my writing. As unsettling as the idea is that my poems are actually getting out into the world & being read by strangers, I consider finding an audience for my poems part of the work of being a poet.

Some evenings I pull out the bulging file of rejection slips (while also noting with no small satisfaction that the acceptance file is gaining weight too), and, in an act my husband considers masochistic, I page through the papers. But I do this for two reasons. First, it reminds me how far I have progressed: the early days of peremptory slips have given ground to many more personal notes. Second, it reminds me of those encouraging notes, of journals I haven’t tried in a while that I need to send work to. I find that I tend to get in submission ruts, forgetting certain journals for periods of time. My rejection file is a great resource, an archive of journal contact history. I hope I always have it.


The First Annual NaPoMo Poetry Giveaway was very good to me, to my neverending surprise. My winnings:

  1. from Jennifer Gresham at Everyday Bright, a copy of her chapbook, Explaining Relativity to the Cat. This just arrived today — thank you, Jen!
  2. from Ron Mohring at Supple Amounts, a copy of Deb Burnham’s chapbook, Still.
  3. from Ronda Broatch at After Artist’s Way, copies of her chapbooks, Some Other Eden and Shedding Our Skins.

It was great fun meeting so many new folks, though I’ve been so wrapped up in my own work since then that I haven’t explored the blogosphere much. Thanks again to everyone for making poetry month so much of a real celebration.

Reading Tonight!

I’m reading, along with Kevin Barents and Chloe Garcia-Roberts, at the Blacksmith House in Cambridge tonight as part of their New Voices: Emerging Writers evening. I admit that I’m feeling intimidated by the prospect of reading in this series, at this historical house that has heard the voices of so many major & minor poets. From their website:

Founded in 1973, The Blacksmith House Poetry Series features both established and emerging writers of poetry and fiction. The series is sponsored by the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and holds readings at the Blacksmith House, site of the village smithy and spreading chestnut tree of Longfellow’s 1839 poem “The Village Blacksmith.”

This will the first time I’m reading with poets I don’t know, whose work I’m unfamiliar with, though I of course Googled them to get a taste — because I’m a do-my-homework kind of girl — but it sure adds an extra element of excitement to choosing my set list. Which I still have to do.

In addition to the poems and Words in Air, I’ve finished the Ian Hamilton biography of Lowell and Brett C. Millier’s biography of Bishop, and I’m about to start on Paul Mariani’s biography of Lowell — because yes, as it turns out, one is not enough — I’m also looking for what else I can read on Bishop. Both lives strike different chords in me, make me sad in different ways, and I want to talk about that, but I have too much to do today before we leave — it’s a bit of a drive for us to get to Cambridge — so it will have to wait. And I’m far too nervous to be able to contruct an articulate thought anyway! With any luck, I’ll be able to post a favorable report of my evening tomorrow.

The Storm that Wasn’t.

Out here in the western part of the state we didn’t get so much as a stray snowflake from the so-called blizzard.  We already have a foot of snow on the ground, so I’m not exactly complaining, but it was a surprise to wake up to nothing when I was expecting at least a foot more.

Definitely for the best, however. Last storm we bartered a loaf of fresh-baked bread for our neighbor snow-blowing our driveway.  But I didn’t have enough flour or time to bake this weekend. That came today. And check out that loaf on the right — an experiment, cinnamon raisin. I don’t know about the nutritional value, but seriously, nothing beats the taste of home-made bread.

So I didn’t bake bread, I didn’t shovel snow, and I certainly didn’t do any of the reading and writing I’d been hankering for.  And yet somehow the weekend is gone.  The one poetry task I finished was a grant application. Maybe that’s where my head was: between choosing the poems, filling out the forms, writing up the artist résumé, printing it all up in duplicate, and then waiting in line at the post office — the Christmas season not being the ideal time to have to mail non-xmas items — it took a while. That, at least, is done.

We did watch a DVD Saturday night, “Julie & Julia”, and it was wonderful, I don’t think I stopped smiling throughout the entire movie. Julia Child’s small memoir, My Life in France, is now at the top of my reading list.

But I made the mistake of then Googling Julie Powell, the author of the memoir Julie & Julia (which I haven’t read) which inspired the film, because heavens, Amy Adams is just so darn likable! Not that I mistook a movie for the true story, but I was curious. The movie kind of charts two artists discovering their medium, and I was interested in seeing what Julie Powell was up to lately. Julia, well, nothing new there.

And it turns out that Julie Powell has a new memoir out, Cleaving, which explores a less savory side of food, butchery, as well as detailing the troubles of her marriage. None of which I ever wanted to know.  Which is why I don’t read memoirs.

So now I’m endeavoring to forget everything I read online — not that I read much, one article informed plenty. One of the biggest delights of the movie is its depiction of two truly loving marriages, it was incredibly cockle-warming, and that’s what I’d rather hold on to. It’s winter, and cold enough, blizzard or no.

My Winter List.

I’m working on a rather ambitiously tall stack of books from my reading list, and picked up two novels, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin and Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees, from the library.  Which I haven’t even opened yet because of the magnificent richness of poetry books I’m reading:

Book Cover Goes Here

I won a free copy of Blood Almanac from Sandy Longhorn’s blog.  I’ve been enjoying the vivid sense of place these poems evoke, a place very different from New England, but not altogether alien to me: my grandparents were Georgia share-croppers, and I recognize them in some of poems early in the book. Justin Evans, who won the other copy Sandy was offering, wrote a great review here, but I hope to write an appreciation some time soon. I love that its three sections are true delineations, encompass three very different kinds of poems, and admire the ease of each tonal shift.

One of the other titles I’ve been slowly flipping through is Intaglio, by Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis. I had read a few of her poems online, and sent out a call to my poet friends to borrow a copy.  Happy me, Kim had one & sent it my way, to keep! Very fortunate, considering how long it’s taking me to read.  Her style is so different from mine, so expansive and exuberant, it’s like stepping into bright lights whenever I open the book. Hopefully I’ll learn a thing or two.

Not the last book in my leaning Pisa of a pile, but the last one I’ll mention today, is The Narcoleptic Yard, by Charity Ketz.  I admit it, I wanted this one purely for its cover, which perfectly captures the scene from the poem, “Shroud”, from which the book draws its title: “Something // seams the air — what flies between // invents the narcopleptic yard, the wavering / catechism, the bugs // the buds’ red — The air / frills with shirring.”  I haven’t spent enough time with this one to really get a handle on the poems themselves, but I like what I’ve read so far.

“Decor in general left her completely indifferent.”

In this era of “Extreme Home-Makeovers” and “Trading Spaces”, it seems a crime to say so.  Let me be clear: I love a good make-over, be it person (à la “What not to Wear”), room, or home.  But when it comes to my own space, well, I just can’t be bothered.  As long as the clutter’s under control and the dust bunnies (which are really ginormous fur balls) aren’t assimilating the apartment, I’m content.  Some art on the walls would be nice, I agree, but art costs money, and if I have it to spend, I’d rather spend it on books.

Which is funny, because I did own a house for a while, a wee 730 square footer, back when I was single & fancy-free.  The first two weeks after closing, I spent my vacation painting its four rooms, unpacking, screwing together new pine bookshelves (after my LARGE particle board bookshelf [fatigued from 14 moves in 11 years] imploded, predictably seconds after I placed the last book on its shelf), and white-washing them.

But once vacation was over, in the next 5 years of home-ownership I did not tackle one decorating task more. Granted, my energies were taken up by the winter without running water, the long-running water heater issues, the propagating mice…. However, left to my own devices (and Lance will back me up on this, to his ever-loving dismay), even pictures of my family remain stacked on a shelf somewhere.  I love pictures of my family, would very much like them to be hung on my walls.  By someone else.  Because I’m over here, otherwise and much more happily occupied.

* The post title quote is from the novel, That Mad Ache, by Francoise Sagan, in a new translation by Douglas Hofstadter.  The first novel I’ve picked up in a while, it’s set in 1960’s Parisian high society, a great summer read — beautifully written and fun.  Plus, when you flip it over, on the other side is an essay by Mr. Hofstadter on the process of translating this novel, including the title.  Jane Hirshfield, in Nine Gates, also wrote on the art of translation, and William Gass too, in Reading Rilke, and it never fails to fascinate.

My Current Reading List.

Besides the stack of literary journals that have been arriving in my mailbox demanding to be more than flipped through (The Café Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Weave Magazine, Bateau, Tar River…off the top of my head), and in addition to the Tupelo Press books I am joyfully immersing in, there are a clutch of other titles I’m looking forward to reading:

  • She Walks Into the Sea, by Patricia Clark (Michigan State University Press, just released.)  Her name rings no bells for me, but her picture looks familiar, so I’m thinking I must have seen her listed in her publisher’s sales catalog.  I was introduced to her through SHE WRITES, and read about her online.  Then she visited this blog and I became a fan for life.  I can’t wait to dig into this new collection.

  • The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song, by Ellen Bryant Voigt (Graywolf Press).  The Art of... is a great series from Graywolf, and I love Ellen Bryant Voigt’s previous works of critical prose.  And this is a subject that I could use exploring right now, the various ways poets structure their poems.
  • Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, by Kim Addonizio (W.W. Norton & Co.).  On the one hand, I’m a sucker for this sort of thing.  The autodidact in me can’t resist.  But I’m afraid it’ll turn out to be a book more suited to the beginner.  It has more than 300 pages, so I’m optimistic.


And my reading list would not be complete without mentioning my own chapbook.  Again.  Because the pre-sale is still going on for a little bit longer.  If you want to order a copy, just click on the cover at right, or visit my Hunger All Inside page to get a gander at a few blurbs and a sample poem.  The more books that are ordered, the better my print run will be, so thank you!