there’s so much going on…

I won’t fit it all into this post, but here’s some of it:

Mary’s in the thick of a move, publishing articles about tessellations and other niftiness, and receiving great reviews for The Scientific Method.

Joanne’s giving away copies of 140 and Counting over at Goodreads, and coordinated Couplets: A Multi-Author Poetry Blog Tour, which included posts by her, Mary, and me, and a horde of other writers with lots to say (and show) about poetry.

Joanne also runs Upper Rubber Boot Books, which published my new chapbook, Measured Extravagance, earlier this spring:

Measured Extravagance

It’s available in a bunch of electronic formats at a bunch of vendors in a bunch of countries, listed here. The link will also take you to excerpts from some of the immensely flattering press it’s been receiving.

(Not to worry about getting my head through doors, though — nothing, but nothing can puncture one’s ego faster than the newest draft refusing to gel… *wry smile*)

Science, Sonnets, and Speculation

npl reading

Please join award-winning writers Mary Alexandra Agner (The Scientific Method; The Doors of the Body), Joanne Merriam (A Multitude of Daggers; The Glaze from Breaking), and Peg Duthie (Measured Extravagance) for Science, Sonnets, and Speculation. Ranging from tales of goddesses, immigrants, physicists, and werepenguins to Shakespeare-laced hallucinations, the poems you will hear at this gathering include pieces praised for their ferocious lyricism, eloquent explications, and compassionate heresies.

The event will be in the library’s West Reading Room. We look forward to seeing you!

more on Orr

In the April 10 issue of the New York Times Book Review, Yeshiva University professor Gilian Steinberg takes David Orr to task for his gibe at Mary Oliver (mentioned in my previous post): “It’s fine for Orr to rank Yeats well above Oliver, a hierarchy with which I agree, but to do so in the context of asking for increased poetry readership is contradictory.

As Orr undoubtedly knows, poetry can be intimidating even to smart and devoted readers of prose. But readers cannot be encouraged to read poetry well if their choices and tastes are treated patronizingly.”

In the same issue, David Kirby reviews Orr’s Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry. It didn’t persuade me to seek out the book, but I was entertained by this parenthetical claim:

“Almost all poets, including myself, lean left,” Orr says. “There are maybe five conservative American poets, not one of whom can safely show his face at a writing conference for fear of being angrily doused with herbal tea.”

I also enjoyed Kirby’s rueful recollection of encountering readers of his poem “Broken Promises”:

Recently, I spoke with a group of high school teachers who wanted to discuss my famous poem — rather, to tell me what it meant. “It’s about your own poems!” said one teacher, and another shouted, “I think it’s about your children!” They seemed a little crestfallen when I said, no, the poem is about the promises we break, as the ­title and, as far as that goes, the poem itself says.

The teachers thought that my poem said one thing but meant another, and that it’s the reader’s job to figure out what the poet is really saying. No wonder poetry doesn’t have a bigger audience. All that code cracking. Who has the time?

I confess I have a fresh appreciation for Kirby’s attitude after sitting through Frank Bidart’s reading at Vanderbilt last week with Joanne. There were a couple of gems in the lot, and the Q&A was engaging, and Bidart is a good performer of his work — but, truth be told, I was bored by most of it, and I found myself muttering “oh, please” at the third iteration of one of his pet abstractions, and well, just not my cuppa. I didn’t feel stupid; I felt like there wasn’t enough there there for me to clothe an emperor. Judging from the lines at the book table during the reception, though, others clearly got more out of the experience. Chacun a son gout…

The other thing Kirby’s anecdote reminds me of? William Matthews’s A Poetry Reading at West Point.

I’d taken to sleeping naked. He took a good look at me before reacting.

So, “Hamiltons” won. Many thanks to everybody who commented!

In other news, Per Contra has just published my literary short story “Toy Boy.”

I’m working right now on a full-length book manuscript of poetry about the US. I saw Molly Peacock read last week, and she read her poem “Aubade,” which got me thinking about aubades, and I wrote one based on the “morning in America” Reagan ad. I’m feeling quite brilliant for that.

the locals roll their eyestalks

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted. My apologies, peeps. Some news:

Not Even Squeaking

One of travel’s many perks (up there with drunken coworkers and blizzards) is that the notebook sits beside the bed and so I miss the dateline but can scribble easily something that may turn poem. Draft begins:

Better to praise Demeter
for when the horsemen cut you down
as farmers turn their stalks to food
your harvest will have joy

Not About Snow

Nothing new for the L sequence, nothing stand alone, the great quote I
misheard from Thoreau notwithstanding. Colorado makes better drivel than this but here it is anyway.

The stars my only respite
reserving judgement
flirting behind haze
constant in the houses
to which I am always welcome
horizon to horizon
empty of the heat
of my aching heart.

What kind of ending line is that? Useless prepositional phrase, not even a decent Simic.

Old Bits Reclaimed

Another start of a poem for the Laieikawai sequence. I wish I could put more order to it but life is not allowing that; I feel accomplished just for getting something workable on paper, if incomplete. And it will be easier to make them all better if I have a them to begin with, yes?

At dusk their skin’s the same
color as mine. Ten minute shower
rolls in: Grandma and I sing
the water down, the swell and surge