Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dusting off the Old Blog...

I'd say two and a half months is long enough to post one's next entry, don't you? I've either been too lazy, or too busy, to pay much attention to it lately. I seriously doubt many folks have missed me, but for the two of three of you who have: I'm ba-a-a-ck!

Summer was full of activity, especially for my twelve-year-old, who did three weeks of Boy Scout sleepaway camp (coming home on weekends), three weeks of theater day camp (and landed a major role in their play), a week of basketball camp, and two weeks of vacation with the family. I previously mentioned our South Carolina trip, but in August we trekked to New England. We stopped over at my aunt's and uncle's house in Massachusetts, then planned to spend a few nights at a timeshare in Bethel, Maine, then up to mid-Maine to see my sister. I say "planned to spend a few nights at a timeshare", because we only spent one night there. Let me just say that if we expected to stay at a motel instead, we would have been disappointed with the place. But the fact that it was an RCI timeshare exchange was practically an insult - it was a converted two-star motel (at best) and it was dingy, not very clean, and had bugs in the bethroom sink. I had to talk my wife out of sleeping in the car that night, she was so upset. We'd thought we'd booked one of the other resorts in Bethel that had a "Gold Crown" rating (RCI's highest quality level), but instead felt like we were victims of a "switcheroo". I guess it was our own dumb fault for not checking the confirmation form closely enough. Anyway, we checked out the next day (after calling RCI, who promised to give us back our week and our exchange fee) and booked two nights at a very nice Hampton Inn and Suites in Waterville. In all our fifteen or so years of timeshare exchange, we were never so disappointed with the accommodations. Oh yeah, the name of the place is the Riverview Resort. Other than that, our vacation was fine. We also visited Acadia National Park in Maine, as well as Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge Mass. and the national park in Lowell, Mass. All are highly recommended. My sister also announced during our visit that she getting married to her longtime boyfriend, a native State-of-Mainer and a really nice guy. I wish them both the best.

Poetry: Again, I've been very disappointed with my lack of inspiration and work ethic these last couple of months. I wrote more than 30 poems in April for the "Poem-a-day Challenge", but I probably haven't cranked out more than a dozen since then, if that. Maybe my upcoming pilgrimage to the Dodge Poetry Festival in northern NJ will turn me around. If you've never been to this event, often called "the Woodstock of Poetry", you have to go at least once. (It's held every even-numbered year.) This will be my fourth trip, I think, and I'll be there all day Saturday and Sunday.

There is some good news on the publication front: my poem "Ladies' View" won third prize in the "Simian Poetry Contest" sponsored by Shakespeare's Monkeys, a poetry community site with publishes the Shakespeare's Monkey Revue. I won $25, publication and a year's subscription. Not too shabby! I've also sent off chapbook manuscripts to ByLine Magazine and Finishing Line Press - fingers crossed. Sadly, ByLine has suspended print publication - I've been a longtime subscriber and had much success with them in publication and prizes - I won one of their big annual prizes in 2003. Their chapbook contest is still on, though, and an excellent poet named Ellen Bass is the judge. (I got her latest book after learning that she was judging, because I wasn't familiar with her work - now I'm a fan.) I'm still waiting for the results of the Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition, too - last time I entered (2005?) I won 10th prize for poetry. (My friend Anna Evans won first prize!) Don't know if I'll get so lucky this year.

The big news from my poetry group, the Quick and Dirty Poets, is that one of our founding members, Rachel Bunting, is leaving. Though I understand her reasons, I'm sad to see her go - she's a sweet person and has become an amazing poet. The other news from our band of bards is that we have restarted our journal, Up and Under: The QND Review, and are now accepting submissions. Click here for more information.

Music: Well, what's been going on in music lately? The first thing to pop into my head is a great new band out of New Brunswick NJ (home of Rutgers, my alma mater) called The Gaslight Anthem. They sound like what Bruce Sringsteen would be like if he'd been born 30 years later and had listened to more punk music. They reference a lot of Springsteenian themes and imagery too, yet they still avoid sounding derivative. Their second album, The '59 Sound, is rockin' and excellent. Check out their website here. Other CD's that have caught my ear: the new Okkervil River album The Stand Ins, Johnny Flynn's A Larum, The Hold Steady's Stay Positive, and the Fleet Foxes' self-titled album.

Poem of the... Quarter?
What better choice than my prize-winning poem that just appeared in Shakespeare's Monkey Revue. It's based on a breathtaking natural site in Killarney, Ireland, where I visited last October, and the poem is also based on a local legend that inspired the name of the place, Ladies' View:

Ladies’ View

When Queen Victoria came to Killarney
and stayed at Muckross House, she sent us ladies
up the hill to find a picnic spot. Dutifully
we bounced along the road in one-horse carts,
carrying wicker baskets of paté, aspic, and sandwiches.
But when Her Majesty mounted the hill herself,
we were unprepared, so she rebuked us
in front of everyone assembled.

How could we tell her we were delayed
by seductive nature? A glacier-carved valley
lay before us, spread between the thighs
and shoulders of the mountains, with the jewels
of Killarney Town in the distance, in the nape
of the neck of this land, the river and lakes
like fingers caressing it all. And as we stood
on the overlook, the wind lifted our petticoats
and loosened the bonnets from our hair.