Thursday, April 30, 2009

NaPoMo Update/Poetry in Princeton

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
tax dollars

for which you worked
so hard to pay
and gave myself
a bonus

Forgive me
it was wonderful
so sweet
and so green

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

National Poetry Month! Baseball! Woohoo!

All right, time to stop making excuses: this blog is long overdue. And now that it’s National Poetry Month and the beginning of the baseball season, I have not excuse.
Yup, I’m doing the Poem-a-day Challenge again, and once again following Robert Brewer’s blog on the Writer’s Digest site. This month is kind of exciting, because he has corralled a bunch of judges to pick daily winners, whose poems will eventually end up in an e-book he’ll produce with the 50 best submitted poems of the month. Competition may be keen, however, because he’s had an unprecedented response on his comments board, with over 700-800 entries a day (over 1000 on the first day alone). I don’t envy his task, with his poet wife’s help, of slogging through hundreds of submissions a day, although a fair number of them, frankly, will be easy to weed out. The judges for the final cut, by the way, include such familiar names (at least to us poets) as Mark Doty, Dorianne Laux, and Marilyn Nelson.

I’m also mailing off my pre-publication package to Finishing Line Press for my chapbook, Breathing Out. Got my cover art and photos (courtesy of my son) as well as three very nice “blurbs” from my poet friends Anna Evans, Therese Halscheid, and BJ Ward. Watch this blog in a few months for more details of the pending publication!

The other thing I’m doing for Poetry Month is attending the Princeton Poetry Festival on April 27th and 28th. Unfortunately, the Dodge Foundation decided not to hold the biannual Dodge Poetry Festival next year, but thank goodness for other organizations that will be trying to fill that huge cultural hole. This one will feature two poetry legends, John Ashberry and Seamus Heaney, and a number of other excellent poets in readings and seminars. And best of all, it’s FREE – but you need to order tickets. If you're interested, click here.

Finally in poetry news, our group, Quick and Dirty Poets, has released our 4th annual issue of our journal, Up and Under: the QND Review, which should be available soon, if not now, on our website (see link on right). Not that I’m biased or anything, but I think it’s our best issue yet, and our launch party last month was a big success.

Baseball: Opening week! Can the Phillies repeat? I think they certainly have the potential – they have virtually the same starting lineup and pitching staff that made them so successful last year. Pat Burrell is gone, but he’ll be happier as a DH in the AL, I think, and Ibanez will hopefully fill that gap well. They won it all last year despite some offensive slumps from their key players, so if everyone gets in a groove this year, they’ll be hard to beat. The pitching staff needs to be consistent and healthy, of course, and we need JC Romero back (he got a raw deal with that banned substance penalty – way too stiff a punishment, IMHO). I predict they’ll at least make the playoffs again this year, if everyone stays healthy.

Music: Nothing yet this year has set my world on fire, though I do like the new releases from Neko Case, M. Ward, The Decemberists, Animal Collective, Andrew Bird, A.C. Newman, Beirut, and Bell X1. That’s like, not love. One of my favorites CD’s so far this year is actually a compilation from the folks that have brought us the “Red Hot…” series which benefits AIDS charities. It’s called Dark Was the Night, a 2-CD collection of some of the best indie-rock and indie–folk artists performing these days: Feist, Bon Iver, The National, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Iron & Wine, and a bunch of other favorites. It’s well worth a listen.

Poem of the Month: This one appears in the new issue of Up and Under:

Where Are They Now?

I hadn’t heard anything from the Muses
for so long, so I went online
to track them down. It seems they’ve all gone
undercover, acquired new identities:

Terpsichore’s on Dancing with the Stars
(still hot, too – love that skimpy outfit).

Erato’s become a porn queen – that’s some boob job!

Euterpe’s a producer for some indie label in Japan.

Urania runs the planetarium at a science museum
in Phoenix. Most nights she just stares into the night sky,
making up new constellations.

Thalia’s doing standup at some cheesy comedy club
in Baltimore. Weeknights, she waitresses at the same club.

Clio teaches history at a high school in Philly.
Her lesbian lover’s a performance artist.

Polyhymnia has joined a religious cult in Montana,
and spends her days in a long skirt, on a hard bench,

Melpomene – well, she’s a sad story, in the hospital
for the fifth time after as many suicide attempts.
But she’s published three books of poetry.

Calliope is a stay-at-home Mom of three in Michigan.
Weekdays she gives piano lessons.

No wonder I can’t get inspired.