Friday, March 16, 2018

What I am Reading Now

In my post AWP days, I am kind o getting grounded again and I have plenty of reading material I came home with. One of my favorite publishers is University of Akron Press - (I purchased three books from their table.)

I have selected one of them,  Brazen Creature by Anne Barngrover to begin tonight.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Confession Tuesday - AWP Edition or Sylvia in My Midst

Dear Reader:

It's been one round-trip flight to Tampa, Florida, 35990 AWP Steps in 4 days, one out of body experience involving Sylvia Plath, the discovery of mini-moon pies, one cortisone shot, a pack of steroids, a lot of new books, and two weeks since my last confession.

This year was my third AWP. My second in a row. I skipped LA three years ago After attending my first in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I confess, some things never change about AWP. I confess that AWP is both exhausting and exhilarating. It's four days of highs and lows and it must surely mimic in some ways living with multiple personalities. Okay, I'm pretty sure that is an exertion, but you get my point. There are people you are so damn excited to see. There are people you miss. There are people you never knew, but now you do. Meeting these three poets for the first times were highlights for me:
All three of them have work that I have read, so I was familiar with them, but this made it extra special.

With Heather Derr-Smith

Before I left, (actually the Friday before) my left knee became very swollen. I stayed off of it Friday night, Saturday and most of Sunday. It went through various stages of being very painful to semi-tolerable.  I called my doctor  Monday and she saw me after work.  I received a cortisone shot and a package of steroids and the probability I would be in good enough shape to leave Wednesday morning for my flight out.

I did, and I confess the trip was not pain-free, but it was for the most part tolerable. So from Wednesday through Saturday night, I logged 35,990 steps. Now, I confess that I was exhausted by the end of each day, but that is how all of my AWP trips have been. Still, it didn't help that my knee was not 100%. Actually, it still isn't.

With Maggie Smith

I love the various swag that comes with AWP. It is always fun to see what new buttons are floating around.  New this year was a red button that read, 'Make America Normal Again.'

There was a series of Cat buttons associated with the various writing genre. My poetry Cat button is awesome. The cat has a red beret on its head.   There was a Teenage Gothic Cat who had mascara streaming down from her eyes.

The absolute best panel I attended was on Confessional Poetry.  The panelists Were Jerico Brown, Maggie Smith, Rachel Mennies and a fourth person whose name I forget at the moment. I must confess that this panel was both serious and hysterically funny in large part to Jerico Brown.

Oh, and going back to swag, one booth had Mini Mood pies in all six flavors. As a diabetic, this size is a better serving size. Not that I don't enjoy the larger size. I have already had to order some from Amazon.

I was able to meet up with two other mentees from the Writer to Writer program. Michelle Cerulli McAdams and Erin Robertson. Michelle and I attended the keynote speech and Eran and I met for dinner one evening.  My Mentor Ken Waldman was there and the two of us spent an hour at the Writer to Writer booth talking with potential future mentees and mentors.
With Rachel Mennies
I went better prepared this time. I packed light and I was able to collapse a good sized leather bag into the suitcase.  If you don't go to AWP and come back with tons of books, something is wrong.  I once packed with books for the return, this was the heaviest of the luggage I had. No contest.

Perhaps later this week I will share some of the titles of the books I brought home.

I confess that I actually wrote two decent poetry drafts while I was in Tampa. I'm in the mood for a full court press of writing and submitting.

My out of body experience as Sylvia Plath
And finally, in the spirit of fun, I confess that I entered into an out of body experience with Sylvia Plath.  I have proof here to show.

Until next time, be safe and peace!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Confession Tuesday - A Word On Thoughts and Prayers

Dear Reader:

It's been 13 more indictments in the Russia Election Influence investigation by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Untold self-injurious tweets by our president,  two more legitimate draft poems and untold musings, mummers, pointless scribbles, one Amazon order, one meeting with my old mentor Ken and an event, and three weeks since my last confession.

You can almost count the passage of time based on your Amazon orders. Well, at least that is true with certain consumable products like our calcium supplement. Not so much books, because they get ordered in spurts.  I'm not sure this is a good thing, but I suppose if I wasn't having it delivered to my door, I'd be driving over town to purchase it.

Time has been skipping along and whistling a happy tune and then, I realize it's only 16 days till AWP. That means I need to get people at work ready to cover my responsibilities. It means I still have to narrow down my schedule for the conference, and at the same time throw myself into a stress frenzy. Oh wait, I confess the stress frenzy has already started. It just seems that time has been flying like a bat out of hell.

The meeting with Ken Waldman came almost as a surprise. We write each other just after the first of the year to catch up with each other. They a week ago I got an email from Ken saying that he signed up to work the Writer 2 Writer booth at AWP at the same time slot I had taken so we could be there together. Then he let me know he was doing an event at a local bookstore if I had time to stop by. I did have time and I did stop by. I confess it was one of those crazy things that came about almost on the spur of the moment. Time always seems full of surprises. Some better than the others.

I finished a Journal I believe I started in September. I confess I'm always excited to get a fresh refill and start again. It's kind of like a cleansing thing. I can step on the floor mat and wipe my feet off before entering the new one. I have untold numbers of journals - I can't quite recall what year I started writing but I know it was before 2000. Maybe this summer I will attempt to arrange them in chronological order.  I still flip through them periodically to get old bits and pieces of writing to bring to the page and try once again to bring some life into them. I confess I don't revisit these as often as I should. Maybe that is something for me to work on this year. After all, how we feel about something we've written sometimes strikes us quite differently a week, six months, three years down the road. This means we can refine it or embellish it to modify where we are going with it.

Lastly, I confess that I am tired of public officials replying to school shootings by saying they are playing for the victims because we all have much more we can do. I'm not against prayer, but if you are not going to offer prayer and commit to taking some positive action to assure efforts to minimize the gun violence will be personally made, your prayers are hollow.

Until next confession, seek joy, be safe & peace!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Her Poetry is in the Beads

Beadwork by CJ Wells

My wife completed her first beading project of the new year.  I'm going to brag a bit about it because I really love the colors and texture of this piece of beadwork. She is very accomplished with her bead art and has done far more challenging projects but this one is so nice because the colors and design are just so pleasing that it is calming just to look at.  

One thing that I have always wanted to do is collaborative where she does a piece of bead art - perhaps abstract and I wrote a poem the response to it. We've talked about it - though she is not into abstract as much as I am. Still, one day I think it will happen. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Confession Tuesday - The Personal Identity Edition

Dear Reader:

It's another hit of cold and snow, another birthday, $145 (at last count) raised for the Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary, three more fricking recorded calls that start out "there is nothing wrong with your credit cards..." WELL DUH! They are all paid off! Lots more reading & writing, my DNA results arriving, and another week since my last confession.

So Monday, the long-awaited, much-anticipated email arrived with the results of my "spit" in a tube.  On the right, you will find the results. I confess I am not majorly surprised. I anticipated the Irish, Scottish, Welsh role in my ancestry would be maybe 20%.  I also anticipated England would figure in...  I was maybe surprised that it was as much as 38%.  Europe West at 35% seemed like a lot, but when you realize that it accounts for all the influence of ancestors from Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, that 35% could be quite splintered up.

The 3% Iberian Peninsula represents Spain and Portugal.

The 3% Scandinavia represents  Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The Caucasus would include  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and the made up 2%.

Finland/Northwest Russia less than 1%

Europe South - as in Greece and Italy, less than 1%.

East Europe - This includes  Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Russia, Hungry, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia also less than 1%.

The other surprise is the Caucasus leaves me feeling a strange connection to these countries whose history is steeped in war, conflict and sadness.

I confess that I think it is good for people to have a realization about from where they have come. Who their ancestors are, not just parents and grandparents. Would so many people today be up in arms about immigrants if they realized where their roots lead back to?  Would the world seem so big? Would we feel as steadfast in a singular "American" nationality? And unless we have native American roots, American nationality is a bit of a misnomer.

I confess I have been fascinated by this information. I already have a family tree mapped out a bit and have slowly been trying to take it back further, but this information adds a new dimension. It sort of jettisons me back in beyond the individual family trees.

Perhaps another reason this all feels exciting is that I grew up with very little contact with my father and the whole paternal side of my family. This always left me feeling as though I didn't really know who I was. It was like a piece of my identity was missing. As a child, I always felt I was something less than most everyone else.

I am wondering how this information may inform my writing in the future. I confess that I see it as adding some texture to my view of my life, and that can't but help make me a deeper writer.

That's my confession for this week. I hope we all remember we came from someplace, even if it was from under a rock.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Is Marginalia For Me? or Would You Could You In A Book?

Perhaps I owe my respect for books to my mother. I don't particularly recall as a child, but someone must have given me some foundational basis for an almost reverent veneration of books.
My own children read some of the same books I read as a child, their condition mostly with only normal wear.

Continuing into adulthood, my books receive the utmost care. Nothing more than normal wear will do. It is precisely because of this the concept of marginalia, though seemingly fascinating, is hard for me fit into my routine related to my books.

A good many of my poetry book collection are signed by the author. Those have been the only allowable markings otherwise acceptable. However, on occasion, I have been sort of reawakened to marginalia. Usually, this comes about by reading something that has touched on the subject and again my curiosity is opened; I wonder then if I might be missing something.

It seems the practice dates back to ancient times.  What's more, there are recorded instances of well-known writers who have taken to the practice when reading other people's work. According to an article by William Giraldi, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the author Herman Melville was rather partial to the writings of John Milton. His copies of Paradise Lost and other poems were said to contain numerous personal notations on the pages.

I acknowledge the thought of picking up someone's copy of a book with such notations is quite intriguing. I am fascinated, for example, of the personal writings of other writers.  I believe they give more insight into the thinking of that person. It would only stand to reason I would likewise relish the possibility of reading works with such notations. The conundrum for me is personally moving beyond my hangups and become a marginialest myself. (is that a word?)

I am curious how many poets or avid readers of poetry, or any writing for that matter, make such notations in their books?  Did these people find it difficult at the start?  Are their others, like myself, who have been conflicted on this matter and how have they gotten over it? To this point, I am asking readers if they would mind taking a survey on the subject. You will find it in the top right sidebar.  Your participation is appreciated.  Anyone who feels like sharing more specifics may post in comments or email me directly.  I will keep you posted in the future on my path towards or away from marginalia.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Confession Tuesday - First of 2018 Edition

Dear Reader: It's been one car wreck,  two poem drafts, one check-in with my #W2W mentor from last spring, one haircut, and 9 days since my last confession.

Last year was the pits. I'm being kind in this description so some reason I cannot explain. So much negative stuff went down I'm still dealing with it.  That said, I was anxious for the new year to come just to be rid of 2017. So you will find pictured above our baby. The Scion was making a routine drive to work on the 5th when we were rear-ended while stopped at a light.  The gentleman who hit me commented he hoped this did not ruin my day.  Ha! This is going to ruin a lot more days than one.  Alas, no one was hurt - except baby Scion. There is that to be thankful for.  Beyond this, however, I refuse to let this incident suggest that the new year is going to be another crappy one. It's my year and I get to say yea or nay, on the whole, another bad year thing.

I got my plane reservations today for AWP18 in Tampa. It's going to be here sooner than you would think. I confess I've never been to Tampa and I confess I never really wanted to go there. No one asked me, but I wouldn't have put it there this year.

I confess that I am almost intrigued by the letters of poets and other writers as I am their writing work.  I have volumes of collected letters of numerous poets. Off the top of my head, I have T.S. Eliot's, Allen Ginsberg's, Sylvia Plath's Letters home, and I added volume one of Plath's collected letters that just recently came out. Seems like I have another writer's but it is escaping me now.

Correspondence between two writers is fascinating because it is communication that is personal but on perhaps a higher level because these are people who make their whole life about the choice and arrangement of words to convey their thoughts. I wish more poets today exchanged mail. I wish everyone was more into writing. It's a lost art.

It's been 23 days since my DNA sample was mailed off. Still no sign of ancestors. Will they be wearing Kilts or Lederhosen? I confess I was less anxious about it before I started thinking about it again today. One of the poem drafts I wrote recently was about sending off my spit.

I started wondering yesterday how many poets engage in marginalia?  I think I will do a twitter poll on the subject.  I confess my feelings are conflicted. I have quite a few poetry books that are autographed and I think that ads to my desire to keep them especially nice looking.  If you have an opinion,  let's hear it.

Until next time, peace, joy, and the American Dream (whatever that is anymore)