Another National Poetry Month has come to a close, and it’s been a pretty good one for me. As of this writing I’ve turned out over 30 poems in 29 days, and expect to complete one today for the last day of the poem-a-day challenge. Once again, thanks to Robert Brewer and his Poetic Asides blog for keeping the inspiration going with his daily prompts. He and his wife have a daunting task of wading through over 15,000 entries for the month, and winnowing them down to 5 for each day to send to their celebrity judges. The best 50 poems, in the opinions of the judges and the Brewers, will be published in an e-book. I hope that one of mine makes it.
On April 27th and 28th I attended the Princeton Poetry Festival, and it was everything I’d hoped and more. It went from 2pm to after 9pm both days – the afternoons offered readings by the invited poets and symposia on the subjects of “The Audience of the Future” and the process of poetry translation. The evenings were readings and conversation by John Ashbery and Seamus Heaney. I got to hang out with my friends John and Adele Bourne and Sheila McDonald, and Pat Hardigree joined us on the second day. I still lament the demise of the Dodge Festival, but this one, on a somewhat smaller scope, was in a way even more satisfying because it offered a more “intimate” venue – a hall that seats maybe 900 people. We spent much of the festival in the first or second row, so we got an up-front-and personal view of everyone. And there were many opportunities to casually meet the poets. I shook hands with Ashbery and got his autograph, as well as one from Michael Hofmann, an excellent German-British poet who was my “discovery” of the festival. I even accidentally upset Naomi Shihab Nye’s tote bag, for which I apologized profusely before I knew who she was. Sheila sat right next to her and I was next to Sheila. The poets were splendid, especially the venerable, legendary ones. Seamus Heaney – well, I love him more than ever, especially when he read some of my favorites, like “Mid-Term Break” and “A Sofa in the Forties”. John Ashbery has been a revelation to me too – I’m appreciating his work much more now than when I first encountered it. And Galway Kinnell read a poem still in progress. Gerald Stern read a moving poem about a friend’s pet deer that was struck and killed by a car. Lucille Clifton was great as always. The symposia and conversations were fascinating. Kudos to Paul Muldoon (an estimable poet in his own right) and everyone at the Lewis Center for putting together a very enjoyable two days of poetry.
No new publication news, other than that I've sent all my materials off to Finishing Line Press for the chapbook they'll be publishing this fall. My son designed another cool cover for me - can't wait till it's out.
Music: Not a whole lot of news here either - lately I'm listening to Juana Molina, Animal Collective, Great Lake Swimmers, and Arvo Part - an eclectic mix. I did celebrate National Record Store Day (April 18) by patronizing my favorite indpendent record boutique, Tunes in Marlton NJ. (Record stores are an endangered species and need our support!) I bought Iron & Wine Live at Norfolk, a 2005 performance that was one of the exclusive Record Store Day releases, plus a couple of used CD's from Ra Ra Riot (excellent "chamber rock") and What Made Milwaukee Famous (also pretty good). Got lots of freebies there for the occasion, like CD samplers, a vinyl LP sampler, and a nice color Beatles poster that I gave to my youngest son, who's almost as big a Beatles fan as I am.
Poem of the Month: I guess I'll share one of the poems I've written for the Poem-a-day Challenge. This was written in response to the prompt to use the title of a famous poem, change it slightly, and then either riff off the title in your own direction, or do a "takeoff" on the original poem. I tried it both ways, but this is the one that's a parody of the famous William Carlos Williams poem that was supposedly a note to his wife about the plums he ate from the fridge ("icebox"):
This Is Just to Say (Memo from a CEO)
I have taken
the bailout money
that came from your
for which you worked
so hard to pay
and gave myself
it was wonderful
and so green