Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Broken Knees, Phillies and Mosquito Trucks

Things have been a bit busy around my house lately. We sent Son #3 off to graduate school in Washington earlier this month, and he seems to be doing well so far. Two weeks ago, though, Son #1 tripped and suffered a serious injury near his Brooklyn home – a fractured patella. He needed major surgery and ended up coming home with his mother, who spend several days with him up there. We provided nursing care while he recovered – on top of having a vertical line of staples in his kneecap and a clunky immobilizing leg brace, he suffered from nausea and a spinal headache for several days. He’s starting to adjust to his limitations, but it will be tough for him for a while. Among other things, he can’t return to his apartment, which has a long flight of steps and no elevator, and his job is a long commute from his home. My wife drove him to New York today to see his doctor and to try to teach his first class since the injury. We realized these past couple of weeks that you never stop being a parent, and never stop wanting to take care of your kids. I’m glad we could be there for him.

Poetry: Not writing a lot these days, but I’m anxiously awaiting the release of my new chapbook, Breathing Out. If you’re not already sick of hearing about it, and still want to get a copy, here’s the link to the publisher, Finishing Line Press. I did get confirmation that my poem “Trivia” was accepted for the next issue of US 1 Worksheets, and that I have been invited to submit work to a new online journal, the Fox Chase Review. I’m honored because submissions are by invitation only, and there are some pretty respectable poets from the area who have been published there. My merry band of bards, the Quick and Dirty Poets, had an invitational reading at the Mt. Holly Fall Arts Festival a couple of weeks ago - it was a swell time.
Speaking of local festivals, if you are in my area (Philly/South Jersey), check out the Collingswood Book Festival this Saturday, October 3rd.

I’m glad to hear that the Dodge Poetry Festival has been revived and will take place next year after all. I’m not crazy about the location (Newark) because it won’t have the idyllic feel that Waterloo Village did, but I’m happy that it will at least be held somewhere.

I registered for Peter Murphy’s Winter Getaway writer’s conference in Cape May next January. I attended this three-day affair a few years ago and had a great time. This one boasts two top-notch poets giving special workshops: Stephen Dunn and Mark Doty. Dunn has been there the last several years, but this is Doty’s first appearance at the conference. I just missed getting into his workshop (I’m high on the waiting list) so I will plan to take Stephen Dunn’s workshop instead. I know several people who have workshopped with him and they say he’s really good, so I’m looking forward to it.

Music: WXPN is starting their countdown of 885 “Desert Island Songs” – as I explained before, the premise is to pick 10 songs that you couldn’t do without if you were to be stranded on a desert island. The songs near the bottom of the list have been interesting and diverse, and generally really good, but I might make a list of songs that have been played that would make me want to swim for the mainland. “New York, New York” would be the first one on that list.

Baseball: Looks like my Phillies are on their way to their third consecutive division title, but not without making me bite my nails. Their once-comfortable lead over Atlanta has shrunken a bit due to their listless offense the last several games and Atlanta’s hot streak. As I write, though, their magic number is down to 1, so they could clinch as early as tonight. I’m not extremely confident they’ll get back to the World Series again this year, though, as there are a few question marks, the biggest one being the bullpen. Brad Lidge went from superhero to goat in one short year, and there really isn’t another consistent closer on the staff. We’ll see, but I’m afraid it may be another Dodgers-Yankees World Series. At least the network ratings folks would be happy.

Poem of the Post: Since I blog so sporadically, maybe I should stop calling this the "poem of the week" or "month", or "quarter" or whatever. It's the poem of this post, no matter how frequent or infrequent it is. This poem, a bit of nostalgia for now-departed summer, as well as an earlier, more innocent time, appears in the new issue of Edison Literary Review:

Mosquito Truck

In my neighborhood
with the exception of the ice cream man
no one attracted kids
like the mosquito truck guy.
He’d cruise down the streets
in that battered gray tanker
with “County Pest Control” stenciled
in no-nonsense black on the side.
Behind him a nozzle spewed a cloud of insecticide,
pluming and roiling like a sudden white fog.
And we were close behindon our red and blue Schwinns
plowing through this haze
pretending to be jet fighters
cutting the cumulus toward the stratosphere.

Who knows what we were inhaling
on those muggy summer evenings?
I’m sure DDT was in the mix.
But these were innocent times
before cancer was something everybody got,
before we wondered what was killing
all those fish and birds,
before we worried what our enemies
might put in our air,
or what we had done to it ourselves.
All that mattered to us at the time
was imagination, aspiration, purpose.
We would plunge oblivious
through those dangerous fumes,
pedaling willfully toward the unknown.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bonus: a "999" Poem

Here is a poem I wrote for a contest run by online poet friend Don "Kingfisher" Campbell. The premise is to write 9-line poem of nine words per line, on a subject that has something to do with the number 9. Here's his site: http://999poetry.

This concrete poem is in the form of a sudoku. I presume you could solve it with the numbers provided, if you were so inclined.

Click the image to enlarge it.

If you like it, go to the above link and leave a positive comment for the poem. Apparently these will help determine the winner of the contest. Thanks!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

I made it! I sold the 55 books required during the pre-sale period for a full printing from Finishing Line Press. I actually had 66 books sold for the period ending August 28, so that means I get a full first printing of 250 copies, plus 25 free copies for me to sell at readings, give away, or do whatever I want with them. I have to admit, it's a bit of a relief to have that pre-sale over with. Thanks to all of you out there who made this possible with your orders and your faith in me and my work. I got orders from family, co-workers, poet friends, online friends, and maybe even a stranger or two. Thanks also to Leah and Kevin Maines (the publisher-editors at Finishing Line Press); and to Anna Evans, BJ Ward and Therese Halscheid for writing wonderful blurbs for the book. If you are didn’t order yet but are still interested, the book is available at:

Music: I’ve been touting the website music club known as eMusic for some time now. It has been a great source for downloads of independent labels and hard-to-find albums. Recently I was a bit disappointed when they reduced the number of downloads per month with my membership, apparently to offset the increased price of bringing in some major labels like Columbia. But I must admit they have sweetened the pot with bonus downloads and such to keep me in the club. And I recently realized that Bob Dylan is one of the new artists they offer – virtually his whole catalog. So I snatched up about 50 favorite Dylan songs that I don’t already have on CD or elsewhere. That got me to thinking: what are the top Dylan albums I would recommend? Here they are, in order of preference:

1. Blonde on Blonde
2. Highway 61 Revisited
3. Bringing It All Back Home
4. Blood on the Tracks
5. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
6. John Wesley Harding
7. Another Side of Bob Dylan
8. The Times They Are A-changin’
9. Desire
10. Time Out of Mind
11. Oh Mercy
12. Modern Times

The other find on eMusic was one of my favorite “New Age” artists, George Winston. His “Seasons” box set (which includes his albums Winter into Spring, Summer, and Autumn) is available on eMusic for 12 download credits – that’s for 33 tracks – quite a bargain.

Poem of the Fortnight: I had fun with Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog weekly prompt this week, so I thought I’d share it here. The prompt was to write a poem about something mislabeled. My subject was a little bit of a stretch for the topic, that’s okay. The title is the word for misheard or misinterpreted lyrics in a song – it originates from an old English folk song that contains the line, “and laid him on the green”, which has been misinterpreted as “and Lady Mondegreen”.


We do not pledge allegiance
to the republic for “Richard Stans”.

“Gladly the Cross I’d Bear” is not a hymn
about a cross-eyed bear named Gladly,
and “Silent Night” is not about “round John Virgin.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival
did not sing about a “bathroom on the right”,
and Jimi Hendrix did not want to “kiss this guy”.

And as for the Beatles’ “Michelle”,
they’re singing in French, not about
a “Sunday monkey” who won’t play a piano song.

So get it right, people!
Now if you don’t mind,
I’ll listen to my favorite classical pieces,

like Mozart’s “I’m Inclined to Knock Music”,
or the "Cannon" by Paco Bell.