Monday, October 25, 2010

Mad Poets, Whale Sounds, Baseball Letdown, Trivia, and the National Book Award

I can't believe that October is almost over! This autumn has flown by, helped along by a wedding, our international student, a yard sale, a handful of poetry readings, a 9th grader who's already involved in the band, orchestra and school play; and an exciting but ultimately disappointing baseball season. Seems like I have a lot to talk about this time:

Poetry: The reading at Big Blue Marble in Philly last month went well - even though I got my dates mixed up and showed up a day early! A small but appreciate group attended, and I ended up selling two chapbooks, but I spent all my proceeds at the supermarket on the way home. (Who says poetry doesn’t bring home the bacon?)

Last week we had our Quick and Dirty Poets reading at Daily Grind in Mt. Holly, featuring Tony Gruenwald, a great New Jersey poet and co-editor of Edison Literary Review. I also read as a contributor to the new issue of Mad Poets Review – their annual book party, at the Delaware County Science Museum, is always a fun event, with lots of excellent local poets and goodies too. This new issue almost didn’t get off the ground due to loss of funding, but hats off to Eileen D’Angelo and company for persevering and getting another fine issue of MPR out to the world!
I’ll be reading later this week at Croft Farm in Cherry Hill, then on November 15 at Barnes and Noble in Marlton, and finally on December 12 in South Brunswick. (I’ll get paid for that one!)
Publication-wise, the only news since last time is that my poem, “Taking It All Back”, is featured on Nic Sebastian’s website Whale Sound. Nic has a lovely British-accented speaking voice, and she did a fine job on my poem.

Although returning to Peter Murphy’s Cape May festival again this winter was very tempting, I decided to apply instead for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival this coming January. It’s a week-long conference in Delray Beach, Florida, featuring some poetic heavy hitters like Robert Pinsky, Jane Hirshfield, Dean Young, Thomas Lux, Heather McHugh, and C.D.Wright. I’m applying for a workshop, with Hirshfield and Young as my first and second choices respectively. I won’t know till mid-November if I’m accepted, but if I go I’ll be able to stay with my wife’s relatives who live right in Delray Beach.

In other poetry news, I was very happy to hear that three of the five nominees for this year’s National Book Award in poetry are poets I’ve met: Terrance Hayes and James Richardson, whose workshops I have taken, and Kathleen Graber, who has been involved (along with Richardson) in the Cape May festival, and whom we Quick and Dirty Poets featured at one of our readings a few years ago. Congratulations, all!

Baseball: Woe is me – my Phillies didn’t make it to the World Series this year. The Giants beat them in six games to take the NL pennant and go on to play the Texas Rangers. I was super-bummed till the next day, then I started to wax philosophical. The Phillies had another great year, winning more games than any other team in baseball, despite being decimated by injuries most of the season. The starting pitching has never been better, with the lineup of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels. Halladay pitched a perfect game (the 20th in MLB history and only the second Phillie pitcher to do it) and then pitched a no-hitter in Game 1 of the divisional playoffs (only the second postseason no-hitter in history and only about the fifth time a pitcher has thrown two no-hitters in one season). He should be a shoo-in for the Cy Young Award – the Giant’s Tim Lincecum is his only competition. The downside is that offensively, the Phillies were streaky at best. They rode an incredible hot streak from September into the playoffs, but then had trouble doing anything with the bat. Even when they swept the Reds in three games for the Eastern Division title, it was by virtue of two stellar pitching performances by Halladay and Hamels, and a game the Reds threw away on errors and sloppy playing. The Giants just outplayed the Phillies, getting all the key hits that seemed to elude our boys, and their pitching was at least as good as ours. Ryan Howard got a hit here and there, but not a single homer, or even an RBI, in the post-season. So no World Series for the Phils this year, but on the other hand, the Yankees won’t be making a repeat appearance either.

Miscellaneous: If you haven’t checked out the website Sporcle, do so now, especially if you are a trivia buff. There are thousands of quizzes, mostly created by registered members like myself, and if your quiz is popular and highly rated enough, it gets “published” on the site by the administrators, which gives it a much higher profile and lots more action. I just had my first one published this week: it’s called “Different Actors, Same Role”, and as of last night it had over 39,000 hits. My screen name is bruceN, if you want to check out my other quizzes, too.

Music: It’s been a great year for music, at least the music I listen to. I got the eagerly-awaited new album from Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz, and it’s pretty good stuff, though not the classic that his album Illinois was. It’s a bit more “noisy” with electronics and such, but still worth a listen. “I Walked” will be the breakout song from this album.
His EP from earlier this year, All Delighted People (really the length of a full album) is also worthwhile. Other new albums that have recently caught my ear:

Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Mojo
Trombone Shorty: Backatown
Richard Thompson: Dream Attic
Ray LaMontagne: God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise

Poem of the Month: I wrote this one at last winter’s Poetry and Prose Getaway in Cape May for James Richardson’s workshop, as I anticipated my son’s upcoming nuptials. It appears in the new issue of Mad Poet’s Review:


Of the 58 things I need to do before I die,
Number 6 is to dance at your wedding.
Yes, me – the guy who once asked for a Virginia Reel
at my school dance, because we learned it in Gym,
and it was the only dance I knew. I’ll stumble and sway
with your mother and your bride through a slow dance,
but later I'll need at least three beers to lubricate
my creaky joints and my reserve, and a full dervish
on the dance floor, a Brownian movement of bodies,
where I’ll slip between Uncle Jack,
who lumbers like a grizzly bear; Aunt Lois
and her date, who’ve inexplicably slid into a tango;
and the flower girl, who randomly jumps up and down,
parachuting her petticoats. I’ll be a hoofer for you –
that is, I’ll dance like an animal without toes.
I won’t do that damned Chicken Dance,
but I will bounce and celebrate to Kool & the Gang,
or any of those obligatory songs, as this ecstatic mob
thrums along with abandon, in a rented hall,
under a clear, rosy evening sky, where somewhere,
your grandmother does the tarantella.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wedding Bells III

More images from the wedding:

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Wedding Bells II

Here's a slide-show video of my son and daughter-in-law's wedding done by their photographer, Ted Nghiem. I never would have thought that Modest Mouse's "Float On" would make a good wedding album soundtrack, but for this one it's surprisingly effective. Also, the video really captures the joy and fun that were Jer and Gen's wedding.

Jeremy and Genevieve from Ted Nghiem on Vimeo.