Friday, August 19, 2011

How I've Spent My Summer

Time to update this old blog! It's been a pretty busy summer. One of the biggest events was my youngest son’s experience in Minnesota, living at a four-week language-immersion camps run by Concordia University. With one year of high school Japanese under his belt, he decided to attend their Japanese camp, and he had a great time. It was challenging, though: He was required to speak nothing but Japanese for the whole four weeks, from the moment he stepped out of the car. He wasn’t even allowed to bring any English-language books to camp (except a Japanese-English dictionary) and had to change his U.S. spending money to yen. It’s a beautiful camp on a lake (just about everything in that part of Minnesota is on a lake), and getting there, and back, from New Jersey, was half the fun. I flew out with him, and drove a rental car from Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport to camp (a three-and-a-half hour drive), but to pick him up, my wife and I drove out there and back – a two-day-plus journey each way, almost 2700 miles round-trip. (If we’d driven straight instead of heading back home we could have made it to California.) It wasn’t bad for the most part, except for some horrendous stormy weather the morning we hit Chicago. Despite the marathon driving, we tried to make something of a vacation out of it – the highlights included picnicking on the beach of Lake Michigan one evening in Indiana, and enjoying a spectacular sunset over the lake. After picking up our son, we spent a nice evening in St. Cloud, Minnesota – attending church, going out to dinner and seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. On the way home, we took a side trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland – what an awesome and fun place.

After returning home, we got ready for two big moves. First, son #3 moved to Manhattan where he recently got a job as a project coordinator for a translation company there. Then the following weekend, our former international student, who is heading to Penn State for college, needed our help getting moved into his off-campus apartment. Busy, busy, busy.

Poetry-wise, I’m in a bit of a blue period, so to speak – not producing a lot of new poetry, but I have been submitting more since May and June, and so far I had some pretty good results:

1. My poem “New Season” will appear in the next issue of Spitball, the “literary baseball” magazine.

2. “Postcard from the Ex”, which was #2 on Robert Brewer’s Top 50 for the Poetic Asides April Poem-a-Day Challenge, will appear in the next issue of US 1 Worksheets.

3. Two haiku appear in the new issue of the online journal Four and Twenty.

4. My “Fibonacci poem” entitled “Big Picture” will appear in the next issue of The Fib Review.

I also have a poem, “Never Say” in the upcoming tenth anniversary issue of Edison Literary Review. I’m still waiting to hear on my submission to Shot Glass Journal, as well as the annual Tiferet poetry contest. Also, I just submitted for the 2013 Poet’s Market, edited by the estimable Mr. Brewer, who will be publishing, for the first time, twenty new poems in that edition.

But the biggest news is the appearance of my sonnet, “Two Writers”, in the July/August issue of Writer’s Digest. It was my “prize” for winning Robert Brewer’s sonnet contest on his Poetic Asides blog, and it appears in his magazine column as an example of the sonnet form. That is easily my biggest publication in terms of circulation and exposure so far. Since I’ll probably never get into the New Yorker, I’ll relish this one for a while.

I have been having fun participating on “Mad Kane’s Poetry Blog”, run by Benchley-Award-winning writer Madeline Begun Kane. She sponsors a weekly limerick contest where she provides the first line, and participants build a limerick from it. I’ve received a couple of honorable mentions so far, but it’s more for fun than anything, plus a way to keep some rather stagnant creative juices flowing. Here’s an example:

A man who was proud of his clout

brought a bat to the plate, big and stout.

Quite a menacing guy

when the pitcher let fly –

but whattaya know – he struck out!

And speaking of baseball (how’s that for a segue), my Phillies are tearing it up lately, with the best record in baseball, and as expected, the best starting pitching rotation in baseball. Their offense got a much-needed shot in the arm with the acquisition of that spark plug, Hunter Pence, who finally filled the hole in right field that was left when Jayson Werth followed the money to Washington. World Series, anyone?

Music: One of most interesting releases of the year is Slave Ambient, by the Philly band The War on Drugs. Think "Dylan and Springsteen meet Moby". Seriously, it's surprisingly good stuff. Other noteworthy releases:

The Baseball Project - High and Inside

Bell X1 - Bloodless Coup

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys

Drive-by Truckers - Go Go Boots

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest

Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

Moby - Destroyed

Old 97's - The Grand Theatre Vol. 2

Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'

TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

Washed Out - Wthin and Without

Poem of the... Blog Entry:

For those of you who missed my poem in Writer's Digest - or if you're just too cheap to buy the issue - here's my published sonnet:

Two Writers

We went for coffee that June afternoon,

beneath a deck of building clouds, and sat

outdoors, the bistro patio festooned

with marigolds. And there I told you that

I missed the way we used to share our craft,

how poetry would pull us through the miles.

I told some funny anecdotes; you laughed.

We made “shop talk” about our different styles.

The sunlit awning washed our faces red,

but faded just as we began to write.

The rain, staccato, drummed above our heads;

we finished and we shared, and yet despite

our feverish pens, they left a panoply

of words unsaid, beneath that canopy.

[P.S.: I really didn't mean to do so much double-spacing - had a bit of a formatting problem.]