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.
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.