Saturday, June 23, 2012

Driving Ms. Piercy

I just returned from a most incredible week of poetry.  I was one of twelve poets selected by famous poet and author Marge Piercy for a week-long intensive workshop in her hometown of Wellfleet (Cape Cod), Massachusetts.  She selected twelve applicants from all over the U.S.and Canada to meet with her daily, critique our poetry, share the products of writing assignments, and learn from her wisdom.  I was the lone male of the group, but I didn't once feel uncomfortable with that - in fact, I felt lucky being in the company of such fascinating and talented women.  Marge is a feisty person who offers incisive and frank critique, and I enjoyed getting to know and learn from her.  I even got to be her "chauffeur", driving her home three times after our sessions during the week.  It was a great opportunity to chat one-on-one, in addition to the individual critique session we each had with her.  I cranked out seven poems during the very productive week, and we had a reading at the Wellfleet Library Thursday evening, which was well-attended (practically standing room only) and a big success.  I also met Marge's husband Ira Wood, who is also a writer as well as a public radio host - he hosted a beach bonfire on Wednesday evening - very nice guy. Unfortunately I couldn't stay for the Friday evening soiree at Marge and Ira's house (had to get back home in time for a wedding).

I loved Cape Cod, though I didn't explore the area as much as I thought I would.  (I spent most afternoons working hard on my poetry.)  My favorite visit was probably to the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouthport, a summer home he lived in till his death in 2000. It's now a museum with much Goreybilia, a gift shop, and a large black-and-white cat who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of one of Gorey's books, thus inspiring a poem. I journeyed to Provincetown one day, too, but didn't stay long because it was during a short but intense  East Coast heat wave - even though it was cooler on the Cape, it was still 90 degrees and oppressively humid (after not getting out of the 60's earlier in the week). I also enjoyed the seafood on the Cape (needless to say), and though I was frugal and "ate in" most of the week, I still went out a few times with my new workshop friends for lobster, pizza, drinks, and such.  All in all, it was a terrific week.  My only regret was that my wife couldn't join me. (I may share some of the poetry I wrote this week in a future post.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Father's Day... Early!

I had a nice day today.  Since I'll be in Cape Cod next Sunday, Father's Day, getting ready for the week-long workshop with Marge Piercy, my family celebrated Father's Day a week early.  My two sons came down from New York, and joined my other two sons, my daughter-in-law, my sister-in-law, and our international student for brunch at the Blue Monkey Restaurant.  The food was great - I had a chicken and garden vegetable frittata
that took up an entire dinner plate - I took about a quarter of it home and had it later for dinner.  I got some nice cards and gifts, including the new 25th anniversary edition of Paul Simon's Graceland, which includes unreleased demos and outtakes, music videos and interviews, and the documentary about the making of the album Under African Skies.  I also got the new live double-CD Decemberists album, a cute book by cartoonist Jeffrey Browne called Darth Vader and Son, an iTunes card, clothes, and a book on the Beatles.  It was great to have all the boys together again to celebrate.

This week was the West Chester Poetry Conference, which I attended last year but had to pass on this year.  My friend Anna Evans is becoming a bit of a fixture there, in her roles as editor and seminar leader, and she reports in her blog, Dreaming in Iambic Pentameter, that she had a swell time.  Maybe next year I'll make it back there - it's an excellent four-day conference with an emphasis on formal poetry, and it's only about an hour from my home.

The only poetry news this week is that I won the Facebook Friends' Choice Award on Mad Kane's Humor Blog for the weekly Limerick-off contest.  Check the link for my winning limerick.

Poem of the Week:  In keeping with this week's theme, here's one I wrote several years ago:


What is this primordial urge
that lures us men outside,
we, who chafe in the kitchen,

only to sear meat al fresco,
taking pride in parallel lines
black-grilled on our product?

Some archetypal memory
grabs us
– the time we used
this new technology, fire,

for light and heat, and suddenly,
accidentally, they say, for cooking,
the fresh kill for the family
skewered on a stick in a flame.

No matter that this modern bounty
wrapped in plastic and styrofoam
came home in a paper bag.

's the offering up that satisfies,
the sacrifice of sustenance
over hot coals,

the charcoal smoke to the heavens,
the ancestors smiling down
on my grill, my gift from the family
for Father
’s Day.