I Live to Be a Ray of Sunshine in My 5 Readers’ Lives…

Summer is a drag.  Especially this summer.  All my friends seem to be gone.  Karen is in Oxford, England; Bob is not on campus.  There’s drama brewing in GPS; Chickenpinata is damn near defunct thanks to a mass exodus of my (admittedly paltry) staff.  La Petite Mort is late by three weeks, tomorrow.  Grumble, grumble, grumble.

And, if all that’s not bad enough, I haven’t been writing anything worth a flip.  Oh, I’ve been trying–this is like the 6th time I’ve started a blog post, and have scribbles of lines here and there.  But everything’s been a half-hearted effort, when I’ve tried, and most days I’m just not feeling it.

A lot of this malaise is directly related to summer itself, when my writing naturally seems to “estivate” (not hibernate–thanks, Bob), but a lot has to do with the ongoing drama in my own life which has been out of control for months.  It is, perhaps, beginning to resolve itself, but I’m tired, tired, tired.   The thought of actually writing any poem is just …vomitous… to me these days.  It’s like it’s all too much; the world waaaaay too much with me–with my life as uncertain and enervating and heavy as it has been, I just can’t fit in the angst that struggling to find the right words brings too.  I just can’t.

I can already hear Bob muttering under his breath, and telling me to grow up (or worse), and Grace (if she read this, which she doesn’t, fortunately) telling me to get off the pity pot and write something already.  But it’s not that easy.  “Writing through the pain” is just a BS sentiment.  I know a lot of Great Writers (TM) write best when they are stressed or freaking out, but that has never worked for me.  That creative wellspring just dries up, and I’m about as useful as a piece of lint.  I hate feeling this way.  I hate what’s going on my life right now, and I hate that I can’t control  it–I just have to sit by and watch it implode.

I suppose, a creative, thoughtful person reframes negative feelings.  I could, for instance, think of myself as being like the cicada, underground and resting in nymph stage, until my 17-year instar comes upon me, and I become this creative, energetic person who begins to sing (although, I promise I don’t have any timbals on my abdomen, because that would just be weird) –or in my case, write.  But I don’t really want to wait 17 years, and I don’t really want to compare myself to an ugly, scary bug.  Or maybe I do.  At least when cicadas emerge from their burrows, they shed their skins and become brand new.

I wouldn’t mind being brand new.

I wouldn’t mind being able to find the words in poetry what I’ve just been tapdancing around in this post.

I just don’t know when that will be.

Though, actually, it will have to be soon-ish, because the August Poetry Postcard Fest is soon to gear up…

Decatur Book Fest Recap

I was going to write about the amazing reading at Java Monkey during the Decatur Book Festival–everyone’s, not just mine, heheh :-)–but then somehow I got distracted and the week got away from me.

And now it’s 9 days later, and everyone else has written about it in their blogs–and let’s be honest here, we’re all reading the same blogs, so I don’t know if it’s worth going into, but for the benefit of those who didn’t attend, and don’t read the same blogs I do, let me hit some highlights.

First of all, let me just say, Christine Swint is a born reader of poetry.   She mentioned that the DBF was her first-ever public reading, but I simply refuse to believe it.  She was so good–perfect pitch and delivery, her words smooth and even, and of course, wonderful.   It was a pleasure to hear her, and to be exposed to more of her poetry, which I am only a little familiar with.  I predict great things for her!  And I look forward to attending more of her readings, because I know there will be many, many.

Bob Wood was next.   He read poems from his Gorizia Notebook, and his explanations about the poems were as delightful as the poems themselves.  I was especially fond of his discussion surrounding “Night Train from Venice,” where he discussed how fascistic the train conductors are–who, as he describes in the poem, embody the “ghost of Mussolini.”

Blake Leland‘s poems were all bug-related.  He has what Bob calls the “voice of God,” and it’s true (if God were male, but everyone knows I believe in Goddess)–a basso profondo voice that makes every word resonate with import.  He read this one poem called “The Cicadas” which was a definite crowd-pleaser because it has a kind of James Brown-esque motif that punctuates the poem.  The audience loved it.  Even clapped mid-way (because it seemed as if the poem were over), but then when Blake actually finished it, it got a huge round of applause.

I was next–I read relatively recent poems, including several from the APPF.  Here’s the set list (although not in order, and not necessarily all of them, as I can’t find the pages where I had them written down):

  • Of a Diferent Color
  • You Never Listen
  • Horse Sense
  • St. Sebastian
  • St. Sebastian II
  • Ex Somnium
  • Breakup
  • Dystopic Love Poem
  • Besame Mucho

Several people came up to me afterward to talk about those Sebastian poems–among the comments I got was that they were “sly,” “sexy,” and “really cool.”  This amused me, and I was pleased.

I’ve been thinking of maybe doing a third St. Sebastian poem–one of the poems I need to write in the near future is a persona poem, which is not a form I’ve done in a while, so maybe I could write as him.  (Why do I need to write a persona poem, you may ask?  Because I will be attending the 3rd Annual Chattahoochee Valley Writer’s Conference, and that was Nick Norwood’s–who has 12 Hotness chilis on Rate My Professor–assignment.) 

I only read 11 minutes, according to Chris.  I guess I’m a poor judge of time, but I will say, I’m a firm believer in the “leave ’em wanting more” school of thought.  Better to end early than to bore people.

After me came Julie Bloemeke, who, like Christine, I hadn’t met in person before.  She read poems about derelict houses which were very interesting to me because I actually have a fondness for derelict buildings in general.  (I have often thought, if I had a lick of photographic talent, that I would like to shoot all the abandoned barns around Louisiana and make a book.)  I’m curious to hear more of her work–I should look online for it.

Karen Head read from Sassing, of course, and is always entertaining–quite the Southern raconteuse, but I confess to wishing she had read something newer.  And I know that she feels compelled to read “May Day Sermon,” which is a fine poem–don’t get me wrong, but I guess I’ve heard it so many times I just wish she’d give some of her other really solid, good poems a reading too.  She told me that she wasn’t planning on reading it, but I guess when your fans demand it… Not that I would understand these things, fanless as I am…

Finally Collin Kelley read the Preface to his novel, Conquering Venus (which I am currently reading, and am slightly in love with Irène Laureaux).  Listening to him read was amazing because you could swoon in the lyric quality of the words.  It was a pleasure hearing him, and I will have to make an effort to attend one of his readings so that I can hear him.  What is it about fiction always being more enjoyable when it is read to you?

There were others at the Java Monkey Stage I wish I had gone to hear–Kodac Harrison, Cleo Creech, Memye Curtis Tucker, Megan Volpert, Rupert Fike (who sent me one of my favorite APPF poems that I received), Robin Kemp (who signed her book This Pagan Heaven for me, but I haven’t read it yet, despite Collin’s superior review in his blog–I need to read it soon, by the way), and Ginger Murchison… Though several of them I’ve heard before, it would have been nice to hear them again.  Next year, I promise that I’ll spend more time at the DBF.  It’s just usually so hot, and parking is an issue, and I’m a crabby old curmudgeon, that 4 hours, plus a MARTA trip, is about my limit.

In other news, oh, never mind.  That can wait for another post.

Rejected, But Not Dejected (Fortunately)

I got a very nice rejection for my chapbook Bayous and Barstools today.  Funny, I was just looking in my box of  3×5 cards (a very primitive submission tracking system, I admit), and wondering “I wonder when I’ll hear from Kulupi Press?”  

Of all the contests I’ve sent that chapbook, I really felt I would have a good chance with Kulupi–they wanted poems about place, and that chapbook is full of my Southern poems which just reek of spirit of place.  It’s unfortunate for me that they chose another winner and finalists, but Arthur Dawson, the publisher did hand-write:

Especially enjoyed “Nouveau Décor,” “Melon Stand [South of Many],” and title poem.  Great portraits of people!

I always feel the sting a little less when the editor (or in this case, publisher) bothers to write a little something positive, as I’m sure we all do.  At least it lets you feel like someone actually did read it–it didn’t just get a quick glance and get dumped on the reject pile.

Well, it’s still out at several other places, so hopefully I might hear good news in the near future.

In other news, I’m reading at the Decatur Book Festival, Java Monkey Stage, at 2:30 on Sunday.  I am in good company:  Christine Swint reads at 2, Bob Wood at 2:15, Blake Leland at 2:45, Julie Bloemeke at 3, Karen Head at 3:45, and Collin Kelley at 4.  Of course there are many, many more wonderful readers who will be there at the Java Monkey stage (as well as a all the other stages!) which goes non-stop both Saturday and Sunday, so if you have a few hours to kill, and want to hear some great readers, you should come on out.

I know I am especially looking forward to meeting Christine and Julie, both of whom participated in Karen’s Plinth poem with me, and neither of whom I’ve met before.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the APPF… let’s just say, I know it’s September, and leave it at that. 😛

Art, Poems, and Art-Poems

On Saturdays, I really need to get out of the house for a few hours, otherwise I begin to root to the couch, and get all depressive.  So today my husband Chris and I went to lunch at Desi Spice, one of our favorite haunts, and then we went to a shopping center in Buckhead that has a Kroger Fresh Fare, which is like the Whole Foods of Krogerdom (although we spit on WF’s anti-union, anti-worker policies).  A World Market and a Binder’s art supplies store are there as well.

We looked at art supplies first and were blown away.  The whole store is underground (basically, under a good chunk of the shopping center) and Chris and I went hogwild.  I’ve been wanting to paint some kind of blue-heavy painting or beach scene for the guest bedroom (which is the only place in this house that isn’t decorated in red), so I needed some supplies anyway.

And since about 85% of my worldly possessions, including all my art supplies, are still in a storage unit in Lincoln, Nebraska, I “had” to buy new.  I bought acrylics and canvasses; Chris bought some lovely colored pencils.  (We went to Michael’s to buy brushes because I knew there would be some inexpensive ones there–as much as I love sable brushes, I just couldn’t justify dropping $150 in brushes alone, although I did see some real beauties at Binder’s.)

Tomorrow I will do some painting, maybe some studies for the large canvas I bought.  As soon as we got home, I had visions of mixing paints and “getting all creative,” but alas, my duty was to poetry.

Which is ok, because I did get some work accomplished.  Day 17 is written, and considering it’s only 5 days past due and I should be deeply ashamed of my tardiness, I’m rather impressed with it.  The postcard is of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s statue Il Pastorello (why is the title of a Danish picture in Italian?), which is known everywhere else except on the back of the postcard as Shepherd with a Dog (1817).  So I entitled it “Pastoral” (that was a stretch, huh?) and it’s basically about the boy waiting on the tree stump to be relieved of his shepherding duties for the night.  It’s not great art, but I like it–maybe because of its simplicity.

My Day 18 poem, only three-quarters written, is based on German photographer Herbert List’s 1937 work, Greece.  I’ve been putting off writing about it until today, even though I kept coming back to it.  I mean, it was interesting to me, as b&w photography always is, but I couldn’t find a “way in,” if you know what I mean.

 It’s just a bare-chested guy with some phallic columns behind him.  What kept drawing me to the photo, however, was how disproportionately large the man in the foreground appears, compared to the columns.  That was what intrigued me more than anything–that the perspective was weird.  Not that (as usual) I have any language to talk about art, but the picture is visually striking because the man is so large.  I think the reason the poem isn’t quite done is that I’m still not sure what I want to say about it–I’m coming up against that age-old test of whether or not a poem is worthwhle, the “so what” question.  It seems dumb to write a poem about a man being big.  Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to come up with a pithy-yet-deep couple of last lines that makes the poem work.

In other news, I received word from Slapering Hol Press that I was not their 2009 chapbook winner.  But hey, as a contestant, I can buy the winning chapbook for the incredibly reduced price of $2 off!   Whoopdee do.  Can they afford it?  I like the chapbook contests that actually give you a copy of the winner for free.  It’s a nice consolation prize.

Oh, well, off to bed.

Guilty :-(

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been 5 days since I wrote a poetry postcard.  (And about 6 years since I went to Confession, while I’m at it.)

So I haven’t been writing in my blog because I feel like all I have to say is that I’m so busy with registration that I haven’t been up to writing my poetry postcards.  This is somewhat true–I have been crazy berserky busy and not feeling the whole writing thing.  And indeed, when I get home, I’ve just been playing Tetris to decompress.  Which is not the best use of my time, but there it is.

So mea culpa:  I am indeed 5 days behind which makes me very, very naughty.  Now I could point out that I have only received 10 postcards myself, so really, having sent out 16 full poems, and not “epigrams, quatrains, and American sentences” to quote Christine Swint, I’m doing better than some people.  But that’s just diversion from the truth.   Frankly, I should be flogged for disappointing all those people who are probably tweeting about what a terrible person I am.

Anyway, when I last left off, I was talking about the poem, “L’Artiste Dégénéré,” about the Egon Schiele picture, and I said that I only had one more line.  That didn’t wind up being true.  I rewrote the last couplet, and I have to say, I love this poem.  It’s not perfect, but somehow, to me, it captures the spirit of the painting.   It’s only 12 lines long but they’re really good lines.  I almost feel like I was embodying the spirit of Bob Wood when I wrote it–which is not easy to do.

For Day 15, I wrote “Prelude,” based on François-Xavier Fabre’s 1790 painting called The Death of Abel.  As all of these ekphrastic poems that I’m writing seem to be, it’s a direct address, in this case to Abel, about taking that fateful walk with Cain, which I imagine happens in a wheat field.  Now, I have no idea if Cain cultivated wheat, but considering domesticated wheat started in Turkey, and there’s speculation that Eden was in Turkey,  I thought, why not?  I don’t have great love for this poem, but it’s not terrible.  Probably with some good revision it could be decent.

The poem I wrote for the 16th was “The Moon Titan Falls in Love” (although I’m still hemming and hawing about the name. . .  I also kind of like “Nocturne” for a title), based on The Sleep of Endymion, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Troisnon (1793).  (I was very disappointed to discover that despite the first name being “Anne,” the artist is male.)  And so the poem is about the myth, that the Moon Titan Selene fell in love with Endymion and didn’t ever want his beauty to fade, so she asked Zeus to let him sleep immortally.  That wouldn’t be my first choice to ask as a gift from the gods, but at least they had the Menae for children.  The last two lines of the poem read awkwardly, though.  Not sure if it’s a matter of syntax or if it’s a grammar issue.   That will have to be worked on, at some point.

My hope is to write at least 3 poems this weekend–maybe even 4–so that I will only be 2 days behind.  Two is acceptable.  Five is pathetic.

Anyway. . . hope everyone is doing well, and writing, writing, writing!  I will get cracking on my own writing this weekend.

The Procrastinatrix

That would be me.

I have been crazy-busy at work the last several days with registration and panicky students who send 8 e-mails when 1 or 2 would suffice–so crazy, in fact, that when I came home yesterday I made friends with Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Those of you who know me know I’m not much of a drinker.  And those of you who know booze know MHL isn’t much of a booze.   But I’m a lightweight (from a drinking perspective, at any rate), so after 3 I pretty much just went to bed.

All of this is by way of saying my Daily Poetry Postcards have been non-existent since the 11th, and I feel really bad about putting them off.  Even the motivation of not wanting to disappoint the people to whom they were to be sent couldn’t outweigh the fact that this past week is the week before school, and writing poems was low, low, low item on the totem pole.  

Worse, I mislaid the Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin postcard, so I didn’t even get that in the mail on the 10th.  So technically, I’m 5 days behind.  There are 5 people (6 really, if you count the Day 10 person) who probably cried for hours and hours when they opened their mailbox and found no poem from me.  I mean, they’re probably suicidal.  

However, today I was somewhat productive in making up for my procrastinating misdeeds, and wrote two poems.  One was on Michelangelo’s David (1504) (please don’t tell me I have to link to that–if you don’t know what that looks like, you’re even more  ignorant of art than I am, and there’s no hope for you EVER)–although to be fair, the poem is about the entire statue, and not just the crotch shot which the postcard depicts.  The other was about Two Girls Embracing (1915), by Egon Schiele, an Austrian artist accused of being lewd and pornographic and degenerate.  Here is a quote from Jonathan Jones’ article that discusses his work (from the April 19, 2003 issue of the Guardian):

His work has a specific presence, aggressive, unignorable, practical. They are pornographic. They insist that the erotic is as great and heroic a subject as wars or religion. And they question whether art has to confine itself to representing life second-hand. That’s what is extraordinary about Schiele’s art: it does not comment on life, it takes part in life. It is not like pornography. It is pornography. It is also high and serious art, a doubleness that may only have been possible in Vienna on the eve of the first world war.

Initially, I wasn’t fond of this picture–not because it was pornographic. Actually, I didn’t even think of it as porn until all the articles I read about Schiele kept labeling his work as porn.  Actually I still don’t think of it as porn.  (Some of the other paintings I’ve seen, maybe, like Nude with Green Stockings. . . which disturbs me more because of the missing foot than anything else.)

But I didn’t like this picture because I don’t understand the fire-dress-drape-blanket thing that the sub girl is wearing.  At first I thought she was wrapped in an afghan.  But then I saw the red garter attached to her stocking.  I still don’t know what she wearing, but I don’t mind it, so much, because the painting has grown on me.  

I think I like the pissed-off look the top girl is wearing, as if she’s wondering how much longer she has to hold this embrace, which, it must be said, doesn’t look particularly comfortable.  Some might argue that the heavy-lidded eye suggests passion, but I think it’s just the same look that every Victoria Secret model has, that sort of “F-you” look that they cultivate thinking it looks sexy.  (By the way, it doesn’t.)

Unfortunately, that poem about the Schiele picture is incomplete.  It needs one more line that no amount of tinkering tonight seems to be able to accomplish.  So I am putting that line off until tomorrow, and I don’t feel too upset about that.

Unfortunately, tomorrow I will again be three days behind, so my goal is to write 2 poems (in other words, a Day 14 and a Day 15 poem), maybe start a Day 16 poem, and somehow manage to finish that albatrossy syllabus which has been hanging around my neck for days.

And if I get all that done, I might have to drink another MHL.  We shall see.

Of Course, Of Course

Yesterday’s poem which I wrote tonight is called “Of a Different Color,” based on Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s 1912 painting The Bathing of the Red Horse (the picture at the link is not nearly as vibrant and startling as the print on the postcard is, unfortunately), a very beautiful, but strange image of a naked man riding a horse that dominates almost 2/3 of the picture.  What I know about Russian art could fill a soupspoon (there’s a shocker), so here is an interesting quote about the painting that I found by Molly Priesmeyer in her article “A Horse of a Different Color:  Politics and Aesthetics Collide at the Museum of Russian Art”:

. . . the rich colors in Petrov-Vodkin’s famous 1912 The Bathing of the Red Horse, a painting that offers an ominous foreshadowing of the Soviet future (the red horse stares at the viewer, rising above the world), are surreal or even Chagallesque. The 62- by 72-inch painting is one of the first things you’ll see when entering the newly transformed Spanish-revival Mayflower Church. It’s an iconic image of what the Russian avant-garde could’ve become had it not been rejected for its realistic and transformative imagery.

As a funny aside, I guess that idiom “a horse of a different color” is so ingrained culturally, that of course she used it in her article title, as I did in the poem’s title.  Well, how often do you see a red horse, anyway?

What appeals to me about this picture is that the colors are so vivid and there is something surreal about the picture–I would agree about the Chagal comparison.  I suppose I ought to have made the connection about the red horse as symbolic of Russia, but that would have been too insightful.

My poem is also strange, maybe a little surrealistic.  In the poem, the speaker comments that the sea is “uneasy” because this horse is present, and the horse’s appearance disturbs souls long dead.  While I have to say the horse doesn’t look particularly evil to me in the painting (actually I think it looks kind of cute in prancing sort of way), perhaps somehow I intuited that “ominous foreshadowing” which is why the horse in the poem is a proverbial harbinger of doom.

I don’t know how I feel about this poem.  I read through it, and while I like the words, when I finish reading it, I have to admit I’m like “Huh?  What does this mean?”  Which is not, perhaps, the best reaction to have when you read your own writing.  But I’ll get it in the mail tomorrow. 

And somehow, I’ll have to come up with a Day 12 poem, and a Day 13 poem.  I really want to get caught up.  (Yeah, yeah, I’ve been saying this for days.)

In other news, I received my print copy of Ouroboros Issue 3, the one which contains my poem “The Tears of St. Lawrence.”  And it just occurred to me, that the Perseid meteor shower happens right around now.  It’s too bad Atlanta’s night haze obscures any chance of seing them.

Also, my villanelle “Tulips at the Door” just came out in The Reach of Song, and Her Mark 2010, a day planner with art and poetry for 2010 produced by the Woman Made Gallery (a Chicago art collective), came in yesterday’s mail.  My poem “On Sanitizing Official Versions” is in it.  Maureen Seaton was the poetry judge.

It is a lovely planner, big enough to write in, but small enough to fit in your purse.  If you are interested in buying Her Mark 2010 and supporting a worthy cause, go here (scroll down toward the bottom of the page).  It’s $15 plus shipping, and well worth it.

And now I’m turning into a pumpkin.  Good night, all!