DBF Post Mortems

I’m not sorry the Decatur Book Fest has been put to bed for another year.  There, I’ve said it—excoriate me all you will, but after nearly ten years of participating in the Local Poet’s Stage, there’s really nothing new and energizing about it.  It epitomizes the term de rigueur.  Been there, done that, got the poetry chapbook.

Don’t get me wrong—I truly like listening to my fellow poets—I thought Tammy Foster Brewer’s work was especially good this time—and I know I have her book around here someplace and I really need to re-read it.  Of course I enjoyed Robert Lee Brewer’s work too (I laughed out loud at the “Love Song of Lt. Commander Data”) and also Andrea Jurjević’s poetry—I like to hear them as writers and experience them as readers, which is why I always corral them for the 10 o’clock hour.  I find something new every time I listen to them—and that’s great.  And it’s amazing to listen to so many Atlanta poets just in general.  There’s a wealth of poetry here, and we can all thank Kodac Harrison’s work with the Local Poet’s Stage for bringing it to such a lively audience.

I always want to stick around for the entire day, but it’s complicated by an uncooperative body.  I did stay for the 11 o’clock hour, a medley of poets including Dan Veach and Karen Paul Holmes and Kodac (who, being a spoken-word/ performance poet recited both of his poems to the delight of the audience).  One poet who read with whom I wasn’t familiar at all was Christopher Martin, who seemed like a good ol’ Georgia boy, but he had a real narrative sense to writing, which I always respond to.  (I wish I had thought to buy one of his books.  For once I was carrying cash.)

I started to linger for the 12 o’clock hour (with the goal of staying through at least 2 p.m., so I could hear Karen and Bob)… except suddenly I was feeling anxious and light-headed, and that spoon-scooping-out-my-eye pain (indicating an oncoming migraine) hit me, and I knew I had to leave.

After all these years, the post-DBF reading-migraine makes me think it’s like some kind of psychosomatic response…I know for sure I’ve gotten one the last 4 years I’ve done this.  I don’t know what to attribute the migraine to—if it’s the venue, being outside on the patio, exposed to street noise (and let’s not forget Java Monkey has shitty coffee, though their frosted mint lemonade is terrific, I discovered), or if it’s the heat the longer the day gets (that’s always an issue, though the morning started cool enough), or if it’s just all the people who eventually fill in around me and I get antsy and hemmed in (actually, I’m almost sure that’s a main reason)—but SOMETHING kicks in, and makes me all Decatur Book Fest grrr-y/ angsty, and I have to GET OUT.

The problem with that DBF migraine is I missed a lot of local poets I’d have loved to hear.  Of course, Collin and Karen are giving a reading on Sept. 30th (which, assuming I don’t have a tennis match on that day, I plan to attend), so missing them this past Saturday is less egregious than missing, say, Christine Swint, whom I generally only see at DBF.  (And who I was so sorry to miss this time, because I’m sure she read poems that had to do with her Camino journey, and those I really wanted to hear.)

I suppose I should have taken a prophylactic Imitrex to head off the inevitable migraine (I get migraines ALOT, and I generally carry Imitrex with me just in case), but I didn’t think about it, and thus, just as all my friends were up to read, I had to go. But what can you do?

As far as my own reading went, I think it was fine.  About eight people were in the audience when I went on—mostly friends of Tammy’s—though my former supervisor and now dear friend Shannon Dobranski showed up just to hear me (I know it was just to hear me, because she left right after I left the stage), and I can’t tell you how touched I was.  It was so unexpected to see her in the audience, and it meant a lot that she showed up because at least I had someone to read to who wasn’t just there waiting in the queue to read after me.  And Bob showed up half-way through, too, when before, he emailed that he wouldn’t be coming, so that was a nice surprise.  I’m used to reading to an imaginary audience, so to have two friends there was two more than I’ve had before, and it was nice.

I’ll post the set list tomorrow, as well as some photos, as promised.  I feel a lie-down calling to me now.

Getting Ready for the Decatur Book Festival

This weekend is the Decatur Book Festival, the “largest independent book festival in the country,” going on ten years strong.  I have read at nearly all of them on the Local Poets Stage, which is located in the Java Monkey coffee house, and I am reading again this Saturday at 10 a.m.

That early there’s not much of a crowd.  I’ve heard that Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel are also reading at the same time (their program is Caprice:  Collected, Uncollected, and New Collaborations, being held in the First United Methodist Church), so I doubt that there will be anyone in the audience for me.  I don’t mind so much for myself—after all, I’ve heard my own poems often enough, but I’m sorry for the three people I’ve lined up for this time slot:  Tammy Foster Brewer, Robert Lee Brewer, and Andrea Jurjević, excellent poets, all, who deserve a good audience.

(It must be said, I wouldn’t mind hearing Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton either—but alas, I cannot.)

Because I am a tangential member of the group that puts the Local Poets Stage together, I have historically chosen the 10 a.m. slot to “get it over with.” Generally speaking, it’s disgustingly hot out, overcrowded, and crammed with people trying to persuade you to buy their books—and the most persistent of sales pitches seem to come from the self-published.  (I know, that’s terrible of me to say.) The height of summer is also not the best time to crowd 50,000 people into Decatur Square (about 3 city blocks or so), so usually I read my poems, M.C. my hour, and hightail it the hell out of Decatur.

This year, though, I’ll stay at the festival at least a few more hours, although I might go wandering, because Karen’s hour isn’t until 1 p.m., when Emily Schulten, Bob, and Karen’s friend (and mentor from University of Tennessee) Marilyn Kallet will be reading, and afterward, Karen is throwing a little soiree for Marilyn.  So, I’ll stick around for all of that.  Of course, a lot of good people are reading on the Local Poets stage—people I always like hearing, like Christine Swint, Collin Kelley, Julie Bloemeke, Lisa Annette Alexander, Cleo Creech, Megan Volpert, Rupert Fike, Kodac Harrison, and Theresa Davis—but they’re all reading in the afternoon, and I just can’t give up my entire Saturday for them, sad to say… not on Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of Summer.

Anyway, I’ve picked out the poems I think I’ll read, and will make a set list afterward so you can see.  I could read poems from my manuscript, but honestly, it’s hard to pull out pieces from a narrative and have them make sense—and certainly, in 10-12 minutes of reading, it’s even harder to see a common thread—so instead, I’ll be reading a bunch of prose poems.  I’m looking forward to it—I’ve never read them to an audience (at least, I don’t think I have) though many of them have been published (or will be soon).  So that might be fun.

Well, I haven’t much more to say on this subject, though I will report back on Saturday (or Sunday).  There might even be pictures.

If Not Talking Back to the Muse, At Least Listening to Her a Little More

I’ve  been reading a lot lately, and realizing how much in the last year since Chris and I have lived together that that hasn’t been the case.  When I was single, I read about hour before bed every night–it could be poetry, it could be history or some other non-fiction, it could be memoir, or a murder mystery.  Sometimes I’d read all day on a Saturday, and even if I hadn’t gotten the laundry done, I’d feel like I had accomplished something valuable.  But especially before bed, it was good to do because it has a sedative effect–and the lack of reading plus the incessant snoring (I’m sorry, honey, but you snore really bad) this past year has really frazzled me.  I’m stressed out a lot.

So I’ve been making a concerted effort to read.  And this is also helpful, because in my last post, I mentioned I was starting to stagnate and needed some fresh inspiration.  I’ve read some articles on Shreveport history, including the State Fair and Holiday-in-Dixie, and I also read Goodloe Stuck’s really fantastic (but unfortunately, not academically documented) biography of Annie McCune, who was an Irish immigrant who followed the Confederate soldiers from New Orleans up north to Shreveport, settled, and opened her own bordello.  He writes with humor, and a lot of the research is anonymous quotations from the men who used to go down to the Red Light District and see her or her girls, and some of it’s really funny.

McCune was a real entrepreneur as far as building business; she sold beer for instance, and was in good with the cops so never got harrassed, and she was quite the philanthropist, giving all kinds of monies to charities.  Her house on 900 Fannin Street was one of the three most elegant/ top tier places in the District, and she regularly got her girls checked for “venereal disease.”  Their health was McCune’s priority; men knew they could go there without worry of carrying something home to their wives.

Apparently Shreveport’s District was the largest in the country for a city its size–it was several blocks, and contained all manner of vice, from shotgun shack quickie whorehouses, to saloons, to places to get cocaine and other drugs, to the more palatial bordellos.  It was huge tourist attraction, with people coming in from all over the Ark-La-Tex–kind of, I suppose, the way the riverboats are now, which I wholeheartedly disapprove of.  (Of course, what does it say about me that I feel affection for a Red Light District where women are selling themselves for $3/ trick?  That seems very counter my women’s studies background…)

Shreveport Madam came out in 1981, and it was kind of fun to read the acknowledgments, especially because I knew several of the people in the LSUS Archives Stuck thanked for help.  As I said, I enjoyed it–it was really engaging and interesting, and I could tell that Stuck had a real affinity for McCune.  I just wish that it had demonstrated academic rigor, beyond a few mentions, in passing, of newspaper articles–although it did have some maps and photographs.  Of course, one of Stuck’s points was that there really isn’t much known about her, so he had to rely on eye-witness accounts.  But when there’s no name attached to a quote, it kind of mitigates the authority and veracity of the account.  At least, it does for me.

I actually think we have a copy of Shreveport Madam at our house back home; I want to say that I’ve seen it in my sister’s bedroom, although I can’t imagine how it got there.  I’m sure she’s never read it, and I wouldn’t have either, except that the Archives had multiple copies and sent it (and other books, like Chronicles of Shreveport [which had a print run in the 1890’s of 500, and mine is #470ish], Glimpses of Shreveport, Caddo 1000, and Caddo Was…) to assist me in my Sibley Sisters poems.  Anyway, I’m not sure how I will work Annie McCune or the Shreveport’s Red Light District into the poems, but it’s definitely good background.

And speaking (round-aboutly) of inspiration, tonight is PoetryAtlanta’s program, Talking Back to the Muse, in which poets are invited to read a favorite poem, and then read a response/ answer/ reflection/ something else poem we’ve written so the two, in proximity, can “dialogue.”  There will be a ton of poets there tonight–Karen, Bob, Collin Kelley, Christine Swint, Rupert Fike, Robin Kemp, Megan Volpert, Dan Veech,  Cleo Creech, Kodac Harrison, Ginger Murchison, many others.  And me, of course.  I’ll be reading a poem that was sparked by Jane Kenyon, who has always been one of my favorite poets.

I like to read Jane Kenyon because she is reflective and sees beauty in the smallest things; even though I have no point of reference for the farm life of New England, something about that way of life, as she presents it, comforts me and resonates with me…  I’ve also been reading good ol’ Anne Sexton, whose poems are the antithesis of Jane Kenyon–they burn me, skin me alive.  But I don’t read a lot of her work at one time–she wears me out.

Anyway… if you need something to do tonight at 8 p.m., come out to the Composition Gallery and enjoy poetry, wine, and good company:  1388 McClendon Avenue, Atlanta, 30307, not far from L5P.   Call them for details:  678 982-9764.

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. 😛

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.

On Prose Poems

I was reading Christine Swint’s blog; she had posted her Day 6 Poem of the APPF, and I marvel at how she responds both to a poem she read by Lucia Perillo and takes ideas and creates a wonderful new prose poem about, as she says, “crows, sort of about women and what they wear.”  

In the poem, the blackness of crows comes in “black jeans and a sooty vest” and in “shoe-polish” hued hair.  Black is fashion and danger; crows themselves are often considered harbingers of death in mythology, and they eat carrion.

And twice the word “murder” appears in Christine’s poem,  which is interesting because it highlights the connection between death and crows, but it is also characterized as belonging to “her,” the female “crow” on the poem.  Is this crow a victim, or has she committed murder?   But she is not dead–indeed this crow “dances the Merengue with the others.”  

Christine’s poem is wonderful and strange, which to me is always the hallmark of a strong prose poem–a form that is completely mysterious to me.   I’ve tried writing prose poems.  They are, like my attempts at fiction, not to be borne.  And yet I am drawn to them–prose poems will usually quickly find a home in Chickenpinata (although we haven’t received many of them).  I probably ought to read some books about them as a form and educate myself. 

I’m not really sure why I like them–except, I wonder if it has to do with the fact that they are generally chock full of things–it’s a little bit harder to be abstract, I think, when you are writing a kind of paragraph of words that all have to be poetic.  I really admire those, like Christine, who can write them well.  You should all check her blog and read “This Crow is Not a Fashion Model.”

Speaking of the APPF, I sent off my Day 3.  I realize, when I mentioned in an early blog post about a “starter poem,” that was really Day 1.  So instead of having written 4 poems by today, I’ve only written 3.  That’s ok, as long as I come up with something for tomorrow.

I bought this postcard book called Hidden Love:  Art and Homosexuality, which has some really amazing art prints in it, and which I’ve decided will comprise the majority of the postcards I send.  (Some pictures are basically crotch shots of male genitalia, which is less impressive, and actually I worry that I could even send them in the mail–with my luck, they’d be flagged for pornography.)

But the poem I want to write for tomorrow is based on the painting Apollo and Cyparissus by Claude -Marie Dubufe (1790-1864).  If I’d been thinking, I would have written down the titles of the art on the two other postcards I’ve already sent, but alas and alack.  Anyway, I’ll keep up with it now.

I still haven’t received any postcards yet, but then when it comes to the USPS, I am cursed, so I won’t start worrying that I’ve been forgotten by other Poetry Postcard people until Friday.

So far, here are the titles of the poems I’ve sent:

8/1  “Folk Tale”

8/2  “Garden Variety”

8/3  “Competition”