DBF Post-Post Mortems

I mentioned a few blog posts ago that I decided to forego reading any poems from my manuscript at the Decatur Book Festival, because it’s really hard to excerpt pieces from a narrative–let’s be honest, the book is a verse novel, and so many of the poems are interdependent (except maybe the Moon Poems in it), that even reading sevearal in narrative-arc-order wouldn’t make much sense. How do you get invested in characters without hearing the WHOLE THING?  I don’t think it’s possible. (I suppose, if I ever get it published, I will really have to figure out how to present the poems in a way that makes sense for poetry readings.  But that’s just not an issue right now, so it’s clearly on the back burner.)

Anyway, at DBF, I read a handful of prose poems as I planned to.  I’ve been writing a number of them in the last year or so, along with the pieces of flash fiction and flash nonfiction.  (Actually, writing the prose poems might have been the catalyst for getting serious about fiction and nonfiction, now that I think about it.)

I’m not sure why prose poems are resonating with me so much–when I read them, I respond to their “quirky sensibility,” and the fact that they tend often towards absurdity and repetition (as well as the other things we expect in poetry, like sound and image and metaphor), and I like when I can write with a little bit of abandon, and try to tap into writing on the lighter (nuttier?) side.  Maybe that’s just my state of mind in the last year or so!  I’ve certainly gone out of my way to read a lot of prose poetry this past year, and I like what happens when I try writing it.

As promised…the Set List!  (You can find links to many of these on my Online Poems & Writing Page.)

  1. Nocturne
  2. This Is Not a Poem About a Blank Page
  3. Oceanic
  4. Weed ’em and Reap
  5. How to Mend a Broken Heart
  6. When the Wolf Bit Off the Fingers of My Left Hand
  7. Prosecco
  8. Piccioni
  9. Chiuso

Regarding readings, I was once described (by someone with excellent poetic delivery) as being a “diffident wise-ass,” and told that my performance tended to be sly and snarky between my poems, undercutting the presentation of the poems themselves.  I personally don’t mind being considered a diffident wise-ass–despite the fact that a body could argue that the definitions of both words would seem to cancel each other out–because it’s an accurate critique of my whole personality, and anyway, I’m nothing if not a contradiction.

But since he said that to me, I’ve tried to give  my poems the gravitas they deserve, and not be so snarky in my delivery.  I think I mostly succeeded this past Saturday at the DBF, but I’m sure I said a few snarky asides.  No one’s perfect…and anyway, I can’t help myself.  No one would recognize me if I was perfectly serious.

Finally…as for the photos… well, I forgot to bring my camera and had to settle with using the phone, and I often  get blurry pics on it.  I apologize to the photo subjects, who are all much more beautiful than they appear here!

Here are Tammy Foster Brewer, Robert Lee Brewer, and Andrea Jurjević (and Bob Wood in the foreground of Andrea’s photo).

Tammy Photo 1  Robert Photo 1  Andrea Photo 1

Here are Kodac Harrison, Dan Veach, and Rupert Fike (listening to Andrea’s poetry with rapt attention).

Kodac Photo 1  Dan Veach Photo 1  Rupert Fike Photo 1

Last, but not least, may I present “Still Life with Bob’s Hand.”  😉  Here he’s guarding his stack of copies of The Awkward Poses of Others, which, if you haven’t read, get thee to Amazon immediately and purchase a copy–especially if you like movies and art and ekphrastic poetry.

Bob's hand photo 1

And with that, I’ve no more to say about the Decatur Book Festival.  Until next September, that is.

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.

A Day of Poetry

Today was the 122nd Quarterly meeting of the Georgia Poetry Society, of which I am a Executive Board Member.  I always like these meetings because there are two sessions of member poems, usually about 15-20 poets reading in each.  Everyone gets to read one poem, and while some are better than others, it makes my heart glad to see so many people writing and reading and loving poetry.  

One thing I especially love about these meetings is they never feel cutthroat–and sometimes I feel that academic poets thrive on that.   Oh, some academic poets may claim that they are supportive and will help you in their way, but at they same time, you know one is saying, Oh, I can’t believe she got published in Such-and-Such Review.   And someone else is saying, Well, you know, she and the editor had a thing at Breadloaf.  Academic poets can be so full of bullshit.

Now, I realize I am being somewhat disingenuous here.  I am, after all, an academic poet.  I have a Ph.D. in poetry with a focus in creative writing.  My aesthetic taste is informed by academia, and I generally tend to read poems by academics.  Granted, the reason for that might be because it seems that most journals are constipated with poetry by M.F.A. and Ph.D.-types.   Plenty of this work is solid, fine poetry, and I like it.  But plenty of it is just as drivelly as the moon-june writers–they’re just more accomplished technically and they have an alphabet after their last names.

The writers of GPS do much different kinds of writing.  Some of it seriously not great.  But then there are writers who use rhyme and meter and form quite effectively, even if they end up with poems that seem, to my academic mind, quite old fashioned.  There is a gentleman there, probably in his late 60’s, who almost always either reads a ballad or a narrative in rhymed couplets, and they are invariably charming and hilarious.  My academic friends would probably scorn such writing.  I find it refreshing in a retro kind of way.

This is not to say there aren’t academics there.  I know at least four other people who regularly attend who have Ph.D.s in the humanities.  Their poems tend to be more technically proficient, more deliberate in the language and poetic devices they use, than the non-academics’ writing is.  But their work isn’t joyless and mechanical as some of the poems I’ve seen in several journals lately are.  There is definitely something to be said for not overly associating with academic poets, who are often greedy about padding their C.V.s and getting their next book together so they can parade it in front of the tenure committee.

In some ways, I’m no different.  I prize getting acceptances, and would love to have a book of poems to sell at readings.  A book would somehow “legitimize” my poetic efforts, would give me a little more credibility with the academic poets I associate with.  But therein you see the hypocrisy.  Because I do, after all, want to impress my academic friends.

At GPS, I never feel that I must impress them.  If I do, when I read my poetry to them, that’s wonderful, and I’m glad they’ve enjoyed it.  But I don’t feel less than–because GPS isn’t competitive.  And maybe that’s what it boils down to:  academic poets are competitive, and that kind of competition leaves me cold.

In other news, tonight I read at the Essential Theater.  They had a poetry reading before the play Ice Glen, and I was a featured reader, along with Ginger Murchison, whose chapbook, Out Here is quite excellent.  It was not well attended, but that’s ok. 

Maybe when I publish my book, I’ll have bigger crowds to see me.  I can dream.