Saturday, November 20, 2010

Big Poetry News and Best Music of the Year

I am psyched! I applied to attend the Palm Beach Poetry Festival this coming January in Delray Beach, Florida, a great annual conference that features some of the country's premier poets who run intensive workshops throughout the week, as well as special events, panel discussions and readings. I just found out the other day that I've been accepted into the conference, and I will be workshopping with one of my favorite poets, Jane Hirshfield. Also leading workshops there will be Thomas Lux, Heather McHugh, C.D. Wright, Alan Shapiro, Stuart Dischell, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and Vijay Shesadri. There will also be featured readers like Robert Pinsky and performance poet Taylor Mali. I'll be staying and hanging out with my wife's relatives there, too. It should be a great week!

I've been doing Robert Brewer's "Poem-a-Day Chapbook Challenge" again this year - a poem a day throughout the month of November, with the intent to create a chapbook manuscript at the end. I don't know if I have a unified chapbook theme at this point, but at least I'll have a few good poems coming out of it. I'm almost two days behind at this point, though, as I haven't written a poem yesterday or today so far. I feel like a slacker for not writing a poem in two days - how about that?

I was featured poet at Poetry in the Round at Barnes and Noble last Monday. It was a small audience, and my friend Kelly Fineman stepped in for regular host Barney Oldfield, who was under the weather. The highlight of the evening for me, however, was my friend Bill, who attended and read a poem he had written about his experience with cancer treatment in the last year. He said he hadn't written poetry in decades until he was inspired by another cancer survivor who attended one of these readings last year. I think it may be the first time he ever read one of his poems in public, and he did fine.

We also had a very successful reading in our Quick and Dirty Poets series, featuring Teresa Leo, last night. The little coffee shop where we meet, The Daily Grind, was standing room only, and the place was full of great poetry by Teresa and others

Music: I submitted my final lists of best 10 albums and songs of 2010 to WXPN this week, and I'm looking forward to their countdown at the end of the year. I have to say though, that this was a rich year for music, and cutting my lists down to a top 10 was a real chore, but here are my choices:

Top Ten Albums:

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
2. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
3. The National – High Violet
4. Beach House – Teen Dream
5. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
6. Bettye LaVette – Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook
7. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
8. Black Keys – Brothers
9. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz and All Delighted People EP
10. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Mojo

Honorable Mentions:
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away
Alejandro Escovedo - Street Songs of Love
Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Spoon - Transference
The New Pornographers - Together
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune
Herbie Hancock - The Imagine Project
Ray La Montagne - God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise
Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep
Field Music - Field Music (Measure)
Vampire Weekend - Contra

Top Ten songs:

1. I Should Have Known It – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. Measure – Field Music
3. Working This Job – Drive-by Truckers
4. Anchor – Alejandro Escovedo
5. Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National
6. Sprawl II – Arcade Fire
7. I Walked – Sufjan Stevens
8. Too Afraid to Love You – The Black Keys
9. Haul Me Up – Richard Thompson
10. Burn It Down – Los Lobos

Honorable Mention:
Laredo - Band of Horses
Zebra - Beach House
Cousins - Vampire Weekend
American Slang - The Gaslight Anthem
Repo Man - Ray LaMontagne
The Mystery Zone - Spoon
Swim Until You Can't See Land - Frightened Rabbit
Angel Dance - Robert Plant
Your Hands (Together) - New Pornographers
The Weekenders - The Hold Steady

Poem of the Month:

Here's one of the two poems published in the current issue of the online journal Tilt-a-Whirl:

Poe Boy Blues

Well, I woke up this mornin’,
there was a raven in my bed.
I woke up this mornin’,
there was a raven in my bed.
If I didn’t know better,
I’d swear that I was dead.

When I went downstairs,
I heard a thumpin’ under the floor.
Yeah, when I went downstairs,
I swear I heard thumpin’ in the floor.
It sounded like a beatin’ heart,
so I ran right out the door.

I’m pinin’ for my Annie,
I’m pinin’ for Annabelle Lee,
Yeah, I’m pinin’ for little Annie,
and pinin’ for sweet Annabelle Lee.
I’m a morbid Victorian lover,
wallowin’ in my misery.

Well, I got them Poe Boy Blues,
my face’s a perpetual frown,
Yes, I got the Poe Boy Blues,
my face’s a perpetual frown.
I ain’t felt so sad and lonely
since that Usher house fell down.

If the booze and drugs don’t get me,
It’ll be a broken heart for sure.
Yeah, if them booze and drugs don’t get me,
That ol’ broken heart will for sure.
I’m a Poe boy, baby,
and I’ll be happy Nevermore.