Monday, May 21, 2007


Last week was a busy time in the Niedt household, with not one but two sons graduating from college - on the same day! My wife and I had to spread ourselves pretty thin. My 21-year-old graduated from Rutgers College in New Brunswick with a B.A. in language and linguistics (Phi Beta Kappa, with high honors). The university commencement, which my wife attended, was on Wednesday. (Tavis Smiley of PBS was the keynote speaker - my wife said he was great.) Thursday afternoon was the college graduation, where he actually received his diploma. I attended that ceremony (James Gandolfini, an alum, was an honored guest), while my wife attended our older son's art exhibition and reception at Rutgers in Camden, where he is graduating with a B.A. in art. His graduation ceremony was that evening, so I had to shuttle from one campus to the other (two hours by train) to get there just in time. It was a tiring but wonderful day. Now the hard part comes for both of them: getting a job!

Some good news on the poetry front: (1) My poem, "Crackle of Stars", was accepted by the online journal Flutter for their June issue. You can check it out (after the 1st, I presume), at
(2) Edison Literary Review, who have published me three times and are about to publish me again, have posted one of my poems, "52 Pickup", on their sample page:
(3) I got an encouraging letter from an Australian haiku journal, Paper Wasp, that they are considering my haiku for their next issue, due in September.

My friend Anna Evans, an estimable poet, alerted me and her other poet friends to the fact that Poetry Magazine is accepting "open" submissions for the months of June, July and August - i.e., they will only consider submissions from poets who have never been published in their journal before. This makes the odds a little better to get into the premier poetry journal in the U.S. Even though my chances are slim to none, I'll give it a go. "You can't win if you don't play!"
If you're interested (bonus: they pay $10 a line!), here's the link:

In the spirit of graduation, today's poem is in honor of my oldest son, who's finishing his doctoral thesis at UC Berkeley. The form is a "diamante" - the explanation is a little lengthy, so I invite you to look it up:

Higher Education


inquisitive, conscientious

reading, writing, calculating

courses, thesis -- degree, career

researching, lecturing, mentoring,

authoritative, informative


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Music, Music, Music

A few random rambles tonight on on the subject of music:

1. The year 2007 seems to be off to a rather slow start, at least for me. I've only acquired about four CD releases from this year so far, and of those, only one has impressed me as ahead of the pack: The Shins' Wincing the Night Away. Some very catchy tunes here, particularly "Australia" and "Phantom Limb". So far, though, nothing has really knocked my socks off like last year's The Crane Wife by the Decemberists - I still consider that to be probably the best CD I've heard in the new millennium.

2. Two online music services I recommend: and
Lala is a great CD-swapping service that works like this: when you join, you create two lists of CD's you own, and CD's you want. The club provides your shipping materials and postage. You're only charged a nominal fee ($1.75 including shipping/handling) for each CD you receive. I've got over 80 CD's so far (not one defective, by the way, though some have surface scratched) and I've actually got some relatively hard-to-find CD's this way., run by BMG, is a great way to get new CD's at a reasonable price. Their only catch is that you must order at least one CD a month at $6.99 plus tax (no shipping and handling), and the CD is automatically mailed the same day each month, from a queue of selections that you set up. You can order more at that same price if you wish (even box sets are only $6.99 per disc).

3. Favorite radio station: WXPN, 88.5FM in Philly - in my opinion, the best adult alternative station in the country. Excellent website, too, with streaming, bulletin boards, blogs, downloads, etc.:

4. Most recent CD acquisitions:
Corinne Bailey Rae - self-titled album (mellow jazz-pop, like Norah Jones but British and bit funkier)
James Hunter - People Gonna Talk: another young Brit artist, kind of a Sam Cooke thing going on - mellow blue-eyed soul
Danielia Cotton - Small White Town: I've been a fan ever since seeing her live two summers ago, but only recently got her CD. What a wailing voice! She's been compared to Janis Joplin - I don't see much stylistic similarity, but like Janis, she can really belt out some bluesy rock.

Hey, how about I close with a music poem:


Old melodies
galvanize our memories.

Durable as metalplate,
they spring to action,

when car radios issue classics
and we hum along:

Glenn Miller, the Beatles, Madonna –
each evokes the ghost of its time.

Visions of jitterbugs
dance in our heads,

or protest marches,
disco mirrorballs,

or some moment that defined us:
meeting a future wife,

a best friend’s death,
the day you bought that old Chevy.

These soundtracks of youth
move us most, pull the psyche

back to when we passed
from innocence to confidence.

Archived dreams transfix us
like mosquitoes in amber,

stuck in the sap of prehistory,
frozen in the moment

when our wings would sing at sixteen,
and we’d feast on the blood of the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Paranoia Strikes Deep

I'ts hard these days not to be paranoid and distrustful of your fellow man, when you think the guy standing in front of you in the checkout line could be plotting to blow up a public building. This little ramble is courtesy of today's big news item: six would-be terrorists were arrested in a foiled plot to attack Ft. Dix, the New Jersey Army base, and kill as many soldiers as possible. All were apparently radical Muslims, but the scary thing is that four of them were from my home town of Cherry Hill, NJ. And apparently some of them had actually graduated from high school here. This, coupled with the Virginia Tech shootings last month, really give one the unsettling feeling that nowhere is safe any more.

I have a connection to the Virginia Tech tragedy too: one of the students critically injured was Sean McQuade, who is my nephew's half-brother. I didn't know Sean, but I certainly know my nephew, who was pretty close to him and very broken up over it. Sean, who was shot in the face, is making some progress, but it will be a long road to recovery for him.

This is a relatively slow week activity-wise for me, but next week will be real busy: we've got two sons graduating from Rutgers - different campuses, too, so there will be a lot of shuffling and shuttling of family members. It'll be great, though. This Thursday I'll meet with my buddies at Quick and Dirty Poets for critique and general hijinks. By the way, here's our website so you can see what kind of shenanigans we've been up to:

I'll leave you with a poem, as I like to do. This is a sonnet I wrote which was published in this year's issue of US 1 Worksheets:

Chocolate and Tylenol

A friend confides her love of chocolate
at lunch – sweet-bitter taste on parted lips,
aroma waft to nose, the melt on hot
wet tongue, and brown smear licked from fingertips.

But headaches are the price she pays for lust
of cocoa-flavored sweets, and she admits,
I like it so, I cannot quit – I trust
in analgesic pills before it hits.

She’d rather risk effects of her excess
Than do without this sweet surrender,
and deems this regimen a fair success
when dealing with a frequent chocolate bender.

And that’s just how it is with you for me,
Except I’ve yet to find your remedy.