Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Going to the Candidates' Debate....

Yeah, that's the old Simon and Garfunkel lyric, and actually, I'm not going, but my eldest son is, as a faculty representative at the next presidential debate at Hofstra University, where he teaches. He also was a member of a panel who presented the results of a political poll to the Washington Press Corps last week. (It was sparsely attended because, as luck would have it, it was the same day the "Bailout
Bill" was initially defeated.) But as his grandmother used to say, "I'm real proud!"
As to the debates so far - well, I won't get too political here. I've already made my choice, but suffice to say that (a) I'm disappointed that neither candidate has any designs on considering a national health care plan, and (b) Sarah Palin is the worst VP running-mate choice since Ross Perot's boy Jim Stockdale. (Remember him? - the guy who said during his debate, "I don't know what I'm doing here!")

Poetry: Well, I did attend the Dodge Poetry Festival this year, and it was great as usual. As planned, I hung out with my Quick and Dirty buddies, and though it was rather dismal weather-wise, it was a literary feast for anyone who's into poetry. To witness a panel conversation with five U.S. Poets Laureate (Maxine Kumin, Robert Hass, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser and the current Laureate, Charles Simic) was alone worth the price of admission. And the Saturday night "concert" and Sunday "matinee" were super as well. Besides the previously mentioned Laureates, I saw Lucille Clifton, Franz Wright, Mark Doty, Jane Hirschfield, Edward Hirsch, Sharon Olds, Linda Pastan, Joy Harjo, Coleman Barks, and two poets whose workshops I took at previous conferences at Rutgers, Chris Abani and Thomas Sayers Ellis. There was good music too, courtesy of the Paul Winter Consort and the Andean music group Yarina, both of which have become "house bands" of the festival. I also got to see a poet friend, BJ Ward, read as one of the lesser-known "Festival Poets". He's excellent and a crowd-pleasing reader, so he got an enthusiastic ovation from the audience. Maybe he won't be "lesser-known" much longer. I didn't participate in any of the open readings this year - I was more involved in soaking it all up.

Other poetry news: Thick with Conviction just put up their October issue, featuring three of my poems, of which one, "Old Man at Bedtime", won their "Best of Issue" award. I'm pretty chuffed about that. That balanced the letdown of learning that I wasn't a top 10 winner in this year's Writer's Digest competition. They haven't published the honorable mentions yet, though, so I hope I at least got one of those. (I did place 10th in the 2005 competition and got honorable mentions in previous contests.)

Music: Not much new stuff since last time, but I decided to subscribe to the Paste Magazine Digital VIP program. For a nominal monthly fee, I get a digital version of one of the best music and media magazines out there these days, plus a monthly album download by an up-and-coming artist, a full-length music sampler, weekly live music downloads, and a quarterly video download. My cup runneth over! I just signed up this week and I've downloaded three albums worth of music I still have to hear.

Poem of the Month: I'm going to break with tradition here, and instead of featuring one of my own poems, I'll present one by BJ Ward. I was going to use a baseball poem of his, "Upon Hearing that Baseball is Boring to America's Youth", in honor of my beloved Phillies, who are about to take on the Dodgers for the NL championship. But instead I'll offer his wonderful Pushcart Prize-winning poem:

Roy Orbison's Last Three Notes

12 mph over the speed limit on Route 80, I realize
the way I know the exact size of my bones
is the way I know I am the only one
in America listening to Roy Orbison
singing “Blue Bayou” at this precise moment,
and I feel sorry for everyone else.
Do they realize they are missing
his third from last note?—Bluuuueee—
and how it becomes a giant mouth I’m driving into—
“Bay”—pronounced bi—becomes the finger
pointing back—biiiiiiii—and all the sealed up cars
greasing along this dirty, pot-holed clavicle of New Jersey
don’t know this “you”—constant as my exhaust smoke—
yooooouuuu— and the beats underneath, more insistent
than the landlord knocking on the door—horns, drums, guitar, bass—
my Toyota Corolla is now one serious vehicle,
and the band and I are all alone, filling it up—
Roy and me in our cool sunglasses up front
and his musicians barely fitting their instruments in the back,
driving into the blue—bom bom bom—pulling ahead
of the pollution faster than New Jersey can spit it out—
Bye—boom bom—his leggy background singers must be jammed
in the trunk because suddenly I hear them and suddenly
we are Odysseus and his boys bringing the Sirens with us,
and the cassette player is our black box
containing all essential details in case we don’t make it,
but I know we’re going to make it because
Roy, my cool copilot, turns to me and says,
like the President says to his top general
after a war has been won, or like Morgan Earp
on his deathbed said to Wyatt when vengeance
was up to him, or like Gretchen Honecker
said when I knew I was about to get my first kiss,
Roy turns to me and says, “You—”

[From Gravedigger's Birthday, North Atlantic Books, 2002. Used with permission of the author.]

1 comment:

Kelly Fineman said...

Bruce - congrats on the publication and the "best of issue" win. I particularly liked the weather-related poem, but I may have told you that before.