Friday, January 30, 2009

Reaction / Action


Listening to: Chiquitia by ABBA

I was thinking today about how much time I spend in reaction rather than action. In some respects I think such an assessment could provide a good benchmark for how much one is in control of their life. Am I in control of my day or do I allow my day to control me?

My job is has a largely crisis driven aspect to it that I'm not able to really control. I can plan, and I do, but in the end my plans are often reshaped by and taken over by events in spite of my best efforts otherwise. This is highly frustrating, stressful and I imagine gives cause to my reluctance to even attempt to impose any meaningful discipline upon myself after work hours. My evenings and weekends often are thus allowed to unfold upon their own as opposed to attempting to decide what and when and stake out a plan.

There are of course in the post work hours where I will recognize a deadline is upon me for something and will step in out of a combination of the pressure associated with the deadline and some degree of guilt causing me to roll into action.  Not a very smart or fulfilling way to approach life.

This approach is often applied to my writing and the more mundane clerical matters like submitting material to journals. I can honestly say that last year the reduction in submissions I made to journals was at least in part due to such a reactionary work ethic. It's one think to accept the fact that my 9-5 job is going to be impacted in such a way that reaction will always be a factor. Writing on the other hand should not be impacted in the same way. Sure there will be interruptions that come about when an emergency arises, but this should be the exception rather than the rule.

Anyone else experience this kind of problem? What drive you forward in your writing and what road blocks do you build for yourself? 

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

A few bit from my journal...

  • you water the lawn with thought so fertile they spring up on contact
  • if nakedness were a genre / you would be published / as total frontal and make no apology for an Freudian / complexes you may have caused
  • the TV was black with apathy / your voice, reversible / is turned inside out

Just a thought- Why in the course of modern warfare with precision bombs and rockets are there still many innocents severed from the arteries that make us whole? 1-13-09


Good News....

  • Reports of chicken wing shortages this weekend baseless (story)

Wings, which in my view are the best part of the chicken are evidently not in short supply for the weekend.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Azar Nafisi at the Plaza Library on Feb 3


The Kansas City Public Library welcomes international bestselling author Azar Nafisi for a presentation based on her new book Things I've Been Silent About - the follow up to the acclaimed Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books - on Tuesday, February 3, at 7 p.m. in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.

A master of the modern memoir, Nafisi describes her formative years as part of a prominent family in Things I've Been Silent About. Her disappointed and frustrated mother created mesmerizing fictions about herself, her family, and her past - which hid as much as they revealed. Her father offered narratives of another kind, enchanting his children with classic tales like the Shahnamah, the Persian Book of Kings. This unforgettable portrait of a woman, a family, and a troubled homeland is a deeply personal reflection on how Nafisi found inspiration to lead a different kind of life.

Nafisi is a visiting professor and project director at JohnsHopkinsUniversity's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., where she teaches courses on culture and politics.

The event is co-sponsored by Rainy Day Books. Nafisi's books will be available for sale, and she will sign copies purchased during the event.

Admission to the event is free. Call 816.701.3407 to indicate your interest in attending or you may RSVP online.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

It Looks like it Snow Melt fell out of the Sky

Listening to: Under Attack by ABBA

Lots of writing this weekend. Also just finished up some work I brought home from the office.

I'm booking a flight tonight to visit my two daughters in Phoenix. Will be able to catch the Giants in Spring Training too!

God I've been missing Giants baseball.

We had geese wonder across the street from the ball field this morning to our front yard. They are way cool.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reaction to Inaugural Poem

On Tuesday I joined a host of others from my office and a couple of individuals from other departments in our conference room where all eyes and the TV set were tuned into the Inauguration of our 44th President of the United States. There was a keen respect by all for what was happening before our eyes.

When the President had finished his address and the podium was handed to Elizabeth Alexander, the poet chosen by the President to offer a poem written specifically for the occasion, a significant portion of those in the conference room rose and left amid groans at the mention of the word poem. I suppose I should not be at all surprised by this reaction, but what was more disturbing was the fact that those who remained largely talked over the reading.  At one point I sensed that only myself and one other individual were actually listening. But at some point, the party of the second part (I being the first)  said aloud, "What? Oh wow, this is bad." I was difficult for me to even attempt to enjoy the remainder of the reading.

When the room had cleared, I had to admit, the talking over the poem had made it difficult to potentially enjoy or at least appreciate the poem. What I recalled hearing of it actually impressed me more that I thought it might, but sadly I felt I needed to see the poem in print for myself and re-read it to really conclude anything about it.

Later in the afternoon, I approached the individual who expressed the feeling that the poem was bad and asked her what she heard. I was not surprised to learn she could not recall much of what was actually said. She did tell me that she though Ms. Alexander had jotted it down that very morning before the event.

I have wondered if others have had feedback from non-poets that they have talked with. Please share your stories in the comments.

And for the sake of everyone who has not seen/heard it, or like myself needed to see it again, here it is....

Praise Song for the Day
A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day - Poetry Submission Day

I've taken the time off of work today to work on poetry submissions. Yeah!  (I'm pretending there are cheers in the background).

It probably should not have to come to using a work holiday to crank out submissions, but whatever it takes. I did get some out on the 5th of January so I guess I'm not exactly procrastinating. I did fall off in my submissions in 2008, so I am determined to keep up with new submissions monthly this year.  I guess a way to look at it is I only have 11 more months to go this year.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Poetry Commerce

Hard Times for Poetry Too

As difficult as it is for me to think ahead to 2010 I suppose when planning for an event with a $1.3 million price tag it's not all that early. For 12 times dating back to 1986, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has funded a biannual  Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey but sadly the event which drew 19,000 people last year has been scrapped for 2010.

This is not my first blogging on hard economic times for poetry/arts, and I'm relatively certain it won't be my last. Still, I am honestly a little surprised by it, even though It probably didn't  require a crystal ball or tarot cards to see it coming.

The Dodge Festival has been sort of the Woodstock of poetry and regularly draws from the ranks of the well established poets. Names like Stephen Dunn, Sharon Olds, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ruth Stone, Mary Oliver, Theodore Weiss, Stanley Kunitz, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Amira Baraka, and Kenneth Koch to name a few. And that is only some from the first event. Since that time, there have been many more including:

  • William Stafford
  • W. S. Merwin
  • Carolyn Forche
  • Richard Wilbur
  • Li-Young Lee
  • Naomi Shihab Nye
  • Joy Harjo
  • Philip Levine
  • Rita Dove
  • Jane Kenyon
  • Donald Hall
  • Adrienne Rich
  • Robert Bly
  • Robert Creeley
  • Paul Muldoon
  • Robert Pinsky
  • Edwasr Hirsch
  • Heather McHugh
  • Billy Collins
  • Franz Wright
  • Jorie Graham
  • Ted Kooser
  • Robert Simic

Those are just a few of the names, the list of participating poets is enormous and covers a broad spectrum of poetic voice.  Perhaps the only name I think missing from the list that surprises me is that of John Ashbery.

My point in listing the names is simply to underscore the magnitude of what was been lost by the cancellation of the Festival.

It's hard to argue with the decision by the foundation. David Grant the CEO for the foundation lists a decline of 30% in the assets of the endowment from a year ago.

For the short term this is a blow to public support for poetry. The good news is that Grant says the foundation will continue to work to bring poetry to schools. He did not rule out a return of the festival in some form if not the same after taking a two year cycle off.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

For my birthday...

I intended to post this earlier, but I've just been swamped. This was a gift from my wife for my birthday last Saturday. It's a Libelle fountain pen. I have a Waterman that was also a gift from her that I use regularly. Occasionally I have got to work and left it behind at home or the reverse. She decided I needed the ability to leave one at home for writing. The tough decision now, is which one?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Local KC Area Poetry Events

The Main Street Rag Poetry Showcase, Sun. 1/18, 7p, The Writers Place -  3607 Pennsylvania Kansas City, MO        View Map

Join Main Street Rag co-founder, Shawn Pavey, as he welcomes Iris Appelquist and Jason Ryberg as featured poets for this month's event! Iris and Jason will read from their upcoming book, Blunt Trauma. 

This month will be BYO beverages and snacks. The tailspinning economy is hitting us in the pants, especially in the parts of the pants that hold the cash. As a result, there is no budget for refreshments anymore. C'est la vie. Bring what you need, bring extra to share, and we'll take a "stone soup" approach to the good times.
As always, an open mic follows our featured poets. No sign up sheet, but please limit poems to 1 at a time and less than 5 minutes.
I look forward to seeing you all there! Please feel free to repost this. Any questions, call Shawn at   816-868-2707       

Time: 7:00pm - 10:00pm   

Poetry Reading Series@ The Johnson County Library
Patricia Miller and Robert Stewart
January 20, 7PM  - 9875 West 87th Street | Overland Park, KS 66212

Patricia Cleary Miller is the author of the non-fiction book, Westport: Missouri's Port of Many Returns, and the poetry books Starting a Swan Dive and Dresden.  She holds the Ph.D. in English from the University of Kansas and taught there and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City before coming to Rockhurst University, where she has now taught writing and literature for twenty-five years.  A past chair of the Department of English, she is currently chair of the Humanities Division.  A former Bunting Fellow in poetry at Harvard/Radcliffe, she was granted the Harvard Alumni Association Award and the Hiram Hunn Award.  In 1987, with the help of her students, she founded the Rockhurst Review, which she continues to edit.

Robert Stewart's books include Outside Language: Essays (Helicon Nine Editions, a finalist in the PEN Center USA Literary Awards for 2004, and winner of the 2004 Thorpe Menn Award), Plumbers (poems), and others.  He has the particular joy of being married to a better poet than he is, Lisa Stewart.  However, some of his poems have weaseled their way into Denver Quarterly, Poetry Northwest, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Stand, The Literary Review and other magazines.  Anthology editorships include Spud Songs: An Anthology of Potato Poems (with Gloria Vando, a benefit for hunger relief), Voices From the Interior, and Decade: Modern American Poets, co-edited with Trish Reeves).  In 2008, the magazine he edits, New Letters, won a National Magazine Award for the Essay.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

There's something funny about....

  • A happy birthday card from the Community Blood Center
  • A dream in which the part of the dreamer is played by Harrison Ford
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Monday, January 05, 2009

It's In The Mail..... almost


 The procrastination is over.  I've readied my submission to an annual review that I am especially fond of.  This will be my third year of submission. The first year - zing I was accepted. Last year nada. So I'm trying to remain hopeful that this years material has something that will stick. Everything all done up and stamped. Just need to drop it in the mail in the morning.

For some reason I always feel good when I submit to this review. I don't know why, I just do. Anyone feel that way about any place in particular that you send your work?

Word List:

A new year calls for a new word list. I decided this on the way home from the office tonight.  I sometimes get away from my list and it really is sad, because having a list of uniquely interesting words at my finder tips often will spark something. That's just a side benefit. What I rely on the list for is to get me away from using the same words often when I'm writing. If I use it, I cross it off my list. The idea is to keep adding words even as I subtract them.

Feeling kind of yuckie tonight. Almost like I'm trying to come down with something. Headache and mussels ache. I think I'll try and read a while, if my eyes and my head will cooperate.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Stretching.... Ah, Saturday Morning


Listening to Savage Garden / Crash and Burn.....

It was cruel and unusual punishment working yesterday but this too has past.  I need to go to the store this morning. Old Mother Hubbard is starting to look like she's among the privileged. I don't think procrastination as a plan is working. Time for the backup plan.

The sky is overcast and it's dreary out. Don't appear to be changing anytime soon.

I need to mull over some  submissions I want in the mail by Monday.

Have a picture I want to work on too to submit to a journal. This would be the first time submitting photos.

Clock is ticking in my head. I hate that.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

I saw this and thought what a great thought to begin the year with...

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.” ~ Brenda Ueland

Kick Starting the New Year

077 Besides getting up this morning and writing, I went this afternoon to the Writers Place for the 4th Annual Writers Place - New Years Day Celebration Reading. It's a 12 hour Poetry Reading Marathon that Sharon Eiker organized based on the annual Bowery Poetry Club event in New York.  So from a creativity standpoint I feel like the year has gotten off to a good start.

I thought now might be a good time to roll out some resources for those writers looking for good start to the year.

  • The Artist's Way.  This is something I just learned of this past week. Julia Cameron has put together a fascinating program that is geared for artists of all types. The program is a 12 week concentrated effort to spark creativity. If interested, check out the web site here.
  • Bob Ragland the non-starving artist~ I heard an NPR story about Bob Ragland - He is an upbeat, energetic fellow that has made a living as an artist and tells other what he has learned that makes it work. The NPR story is here.  You can find his web site here. The story mentions a pamphlet of his road to success. It's simple and focused. I'm sure it can be modified to any art venue.  The Stuff You Won't Learn In Art School 
  • readwritepoem poetry prompts
  • The Writing Site

There's a few things to get you thinking if your having trouble getting the new year started.

Best wishes to everyone in 2009!