Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Still in the doldrums - I can count the number of poems I've written in the past two months on one hand. Nothing seems to inspire these days. Even a writing assignment my Q&D buddies came up with hasn't sparked me yet. And tonight I missed our reading at The Daily Grind - Kathy got caught in a horrendous traffic jam, a combination of Friday rush hour and mall Christmas shoppers, and came home 45 minutes late, which obliged me to stay home with my youngest. On top of that, I've had this miserable sinus infection for almost two weeks. My ears are so clogged it's affecting my hearing. So poetry reading just wasn't in the cards tonight. At least I made it to our monthly critique session/Christmas party earlier in the week.

I did also get out to Media, PA earlier this month for the Mad Poets Review launch party. (A shout-out to editor Eileen d'Angelo, the sweetest workaholic I know.) They published my poem "March" (Q&D pals Anna and Rachel were in the issue too) and it's always a fine little soiree - got to see some poetry friends I haven't run into for a while, like Dan Maguire, Therese Halscheid, and Diane Guarnieri.

And back to my Q&D pals: Rachel Bunting has a new book coming out from Finishing Line Press called Ripe Again. And Anna Evans is about to finish her MFA at Bennington College. Way to go, ladies!

Despite the crowds and the hype, I do like this time of year. It's a bit of a downer this year, being the first without my late in-laws (my wife is particularly despondent), but I do get some joy out of the music of the season. Yeah, some of it is hackneyed and played to death, but some of it is quite lovely or fun. I try to find stuff that's a little off the mainstream. Here are some of my most recent discoveries, most of them new releases:

1. The Smithereens - Christmas with the Smithereens: The rockin'est Christmas album I've heard this year. They do some originals, but also cover the Ramones, the Who ("Christmas" from Tommy), the Beach Boys, and the Beatles (their rare fan-club song "Christmas Time Is Here Again").

2. Mindy Smith - My Christmas: she comes off as a barely-disguised Christian artist, but she has a lovely voice, sort of a cross between Emmylou Harris and Norah Jones. Very mellow alt-country fare, a fine mix of originals and standards.

3. Over the Rhine - Snow Angels: Another mellow winter-season album, not ostensibly "Christmas" but the all-original songs, sung by Karen Bergquist, definitely set the mood for a Yule log and some egg nog.

4. Steeleye Span - Winter: one of my favorite folk-rock bands of the 70's is still around, and Maddy Prior has returned to the fold. This may not rank with their best albums ever, but it has enough classic Span (rock guitar, fiddle, some lovely a cappella four-part harmony) to satisfy long-time fans like me, and folk-rock enthusiasts in general.

If you want to see my current Top 30 favorite Christmas CD's of all time, click here.

Poem of the... Month?

Yeah, it's been that long. How about something seasonal (recently workshopped and revised - thanks, Q&D's):

Solstice Fires

When we touch match to wick,
we light a long line, receding to the horizon,
past the Seven Principles, the birth of Jesus,
the perseverance of the Macabees,
through a haze of ages, brightened
by flames of tallow and oil, illuminating December
before it even had a name,

back to a primordial fire, wild and crackling,
that sent red stars into the black.
Our ancestors huddled close to stay warm
and keep the beasts away,
as they murmured incantations
into the darkness on this,
the longest night of the year.