Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy NaPoMo!

All right, it’s about time to update this blog for the two or three of you who actually read it. It’s that time of year again: National Poetry Month! As usual, I am celebrating it by participating in the Poem-a-Day Challenge. I’m off to a flying start with thirteen poems in the first eleven days (fourteen if you count one that I finished on April 1). And as usual, I’m participating in Robert Brewer’s challenge on his Poetic Asides blog. It’s fun to work on the daily prompts and to share with a supportive online community there. I hope that at the end of the month, at least some of my 30-plus poems will be worthy of sharing with the rest of the world.

I kicked off NaPoMo in fine fashion, with two book-launch parties for two journals. April 1 was the launch event for Up and Under: The QND Review (produced by our little writing group, the Quick and Dirty Poets). It’s another excellent issue, IMHO, featuring Lyn Lifshin, the aforementioned Robert Brewer, and a fine lineup of others. (Unfortunately, it will be our last issue for a while, as our group decided to put it on indefinite hiatus so we could focus more on our other activities, like critiquing each others’ work and hosting our monthly poetry readings at the Daily Grind in Mt. Holly, NJ.) The other launch party was for US 1 Worksheets, a quality annual journal out of Princeton, NJ, produced by the US 1 Poets cooperative. It’s always a great event, well-attended, and the quality of work in this latest issue may just be the best ever.

Another great event this month, which I won’t be able to attend, is the Princeton Poetry Festival on April 29 and 30, a biannual event on the Princeton University campus featuring some of the best poets working today. It has the feel of a mini-Dodge Festival, and it’s well worth attending. This year features renowned poets such as Mark Doty, Sharon Olds, Carl Philips, Charles Simic, Natasha Trethewey, and Kathleen Graber.

I am hoping, however, to attend this year’s West Chester Poetry Conference in June. My friend Anna Evans has been involved with it for the last few years and has been encouraging me to attend. This year she’s leading a panel discussion on formal poetry journals, and as usual the conference lineup is impressive. Robert Pinsky is the keynote speaker, and there are several workshops from which to choose. I hope to get into one headed by Dana Gioia, Molly Peacock, or Kim Addonizio.

Last but not least, I was happy to hear the James Richardson, a fine poet out of Princeton whom I met and workshopped with at last year’s Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway in Cape May, just won the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets and Writers Magazine. It’s a generous ($50,000!) award for a poet who has done excellent recent work and deserves more recognition. His latest poetry collection, By the Numbers, was also nominated for a National Book Award. Way to go, Jim!

Baseball: My Phillies are off to a good start this year. They’re picked to win their division, and possibly the NL pennant, thanks in part to what is, at least on paper, the best starting pitching rotation in baseball, or as they’ve come to be called, “The Four Aces”: Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. And let’s not forget the usually dependable Joe Blanton. The early results have been mixed – not all the aces have been impressive every time on the mound, but the good thing is that the Phils’ offense has stepped up and exceeded expectations. Yes, they’ll miss Jason Werth, but if the aces stay healthy, they may still have a record-setting year.

Music: Very briefly, some recommended new albums for 2011:
Elbow – build a rocket boys!
Adele – 21
Middle Brother – Middle Brother
Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What
R.E.M. – Collapse into Now
Decemberists – The King is Dead

Poem of the Month: Here’s the one that appears in the new issue of US 1 Worksheets.

Rapids Again
By rights, we should be done with this.
We’ve already brought up three,
rode the whitewaters of their adolescence,
then walked them carefully through the door.
Now, when most of our peers are enjoying
grandparenthood, we are raising another,
rescued from the trap of a lesser life.
He’s blessed to have you, everyone tells us.
But at thirteen, he doesn’t often feel that way.
Some days we feel too old to do this.
The rapids await once again, rougher
than they ever seemed before.
But we’re ready – our raft patched and inflated,
our life jackets strapped on tight,
our well-worn oars clutched in our hands.


Nancy said...

Happy NaPoMo to you too! I have a couple of friends (real ones I know face to face) who have joined the PAD challenge this year. It's fun to see their enthusiasm. I still don't get around to reading them all, but I check out my favorites, and I can always count on you to post something good. Enjoy the month!

J. D. Mackenzie said...

liked your poem on Poetry Asides about the famous poet and it reminded me of meetings with Kay Ryan (US Poet Laureate) and Paulann Petersen (Oregon PL). Sounded authentic and recent. Well done
J. D.