Monday, March 28, 2005

Betcha By Golly Wow

This is strange. Today I went to put my bills in the mailbox, and when I did so I noticed a sheaf of notebook papers with poems printed in cramped handwriting The paper looks as though it has been rained on, or at least left out for a few days, and the poems are numbered--there are seventeen of them, with titles like "Jealousy," Good God My Bod," and "Think About You All the Time." The lyrics sound about as you'd expect--here's a quote from "Fatal Attraction"

Fatal attraction turns my hormones/hommies (can't read word) into full throttle
Your body makes me wanna holla like a baby fo a bottle
and so on.

This is disturbing for a few reasons. One, there could be some stalker kid/student out there shoving poems into my mailbox. Two, this stalker type knows where I live. Three, and this to me is the worst case scenario--these poems fell out of some kid's notebook into the street, and some neighbor who somehow remembers that I am a poet, "returned" the work to me, which would mean that they think I write poems like this.

How else could this have wound up in my mailbox? B. says I've been outed by the mailman, who was able to figure out I am a poet by all of the manuscript envelopes back and forth. Now he wants me to critique his work.

OK--off to close my blinds.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good News

Yesterday, in celebration of good news, I allowed myself to go shopping. First stop--Scriptura, a stationary store. My mom gave me a gift certificate for my birthday, and I used part of it buying some beautiful blank notebooks--two from Japan with thinner-than college rule, and another from an artist/company named jill bliss. The pages are printed with beautiful illustrations of all different sorts of flowers--every few pages a different print. Too pretty to write in. But I'll besmear those pages in the very near future. I also bought two books--Jack Gilbert's new book of poems, which is amazing, and the Winter 05 issue of The Paris Review because I wanted to read the interview with Barry Hannah. Good reading all around.

The good news? I had two poems accepted by The Southern Review, "Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them," and "Squeezers," which is the title poem of my new chapbook.

I don't know if it's ok to quite him, so I'll just say that the editor B.L. said some very nice things about my work, things I needed to hear. My mom said, without irony, "Wow. Now you're famous!"

An Aside: I had my tw0 yeard old son with me yesterday. We had to pass in front of Ann Taylor Lof to get to the stationary store. He saw a huge picure of a model in the window, poined to her, and said "Mommy!" I kissed him about twenty times. Then, when we went inside the snotty man at Scripture followed me around as though I were going to steal something. (Remember--my hands were full of baby.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Detail Work

After my offering of green tea and a slab of sushi, an old friend of mine agreed to do the cover design for my new chapbook. Joe is detail-oriented. Here's an email he sent me yesterday:

What we need to ask/find out from the publisher/you (in no particular

1. Precise trim size.

2. I work in Quark. Can their printer deal with that?

3. The cover design you want won't work without coated and very white
stock. Can they/will they get this?

4. What kind of schedule do they have in mind?

5. Do they want to use a photo on the back cover? Do YOU want to use a
photo on the back cover?

N.B.: You might float the idea of flaps if you don't want your picture
on the back cover. Another alternative is a bio page (with or without
picture) at the very end of the book.

6. A thought: You might contact the Squeezers people and see if you can
get permission to use that dog image as a frontispiece. Assuming they
agree, we'd need a black-and-white glossy from them to scan. The image
on the pack of cards is too small, not to mention red.

7. You need to let me know precisely what text is to appear on the front
and back covers. This includes information about the publisher (plus any
logos), bar code, etc.

N.B.: I won't need actual blurbs yet -- just a rough idea of how many
and how long.

8. Presumably the spine will be too narrow to print on?

9. Please confirm number of colors on cover.

N.B.: Some printers treat black plus one PMS color as a one-color job.
Might be worth looking into.

10. Please confirm what kind of schedule they had in mind.

N.B.: Since you want the chapbook in print for your Fanfare reading,
we'll need to know the latest we can go to the printer and still make
that happen. (I'm sure we'll get to the printer long before that, but we
still need to know.)

11. Have they given any thought to the interior design? Cover and
interior don't have to match precisely, but it would be useful to know,
e.g., font choice and design concept so there's not a wild mismatch
between inside and outside.

12. The proper, American English spelling is "acknowledgments," not

13. Can we do bleeds on the cover? (May not be necessary, but still it's
nice to know if we have the option.)
Well, that's all I can think of at the moment. I'm sure that, as soon as
I send this, something else will come to mind. If it does, you'll be the
first to know....

It's so cool to know that I am in good hands! Also, notice the blurb pressure already beginning to pile up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mom, Where Do Blurbs Come From?

I would post about this on the WOM_PO listserv, but I don't want to put 500 people on the spot.

Someone should write an article about back-of-the-book blurb etiquette. I need a few blurbs on the back of this new chapbook, and I don't want to use any of my old ones, since they don't apply to the work in said chapbook. Also, one of my best blurbs is from a fiction writer which just seems strange. My poet colleague is out of the question, for though we exchange niceties in the hallway, there is an obvious (but unspoken) sense of competition between us.

I know some poets. I've been published in lots of places. I even have a few poet friends. But which ones am I supposed to ask to write the blurbs. I hate the thought of asking someone who is too busy to write it but too polite to say no. I don't really have any mid- or late-career poet mentors. There are a few editors who have been supportive of my work in the past, but who wants to dump more work on an editor? And I'm certainly not going to pester the poets I really admire but don't know with a stalker Manila envelope package housing a coffee-stained, footprinted version of my manuscript.

I'm sure others have opinions about blurb hierarchy--you want to get someone more accomplished than you are, right? If not, maybe I could ask my students to write blurbs for extra credit!

Perhaps I should start a new trend--a super-size author photo on the back cover (scary) or maybe a crossword puzzle or a comic strip, a treasure map, fortunes . . . .

Who knows.

If I were going to do part II to this post, it would deal with the prickly business of editing blurbs received and what to do if some one writes you a run of the mill blurb that you don't want to use. I think maybe a crossword puzzle would be better than that.

Monday, March 21, 2005

On My Desk This Morning

CAUTION: Boring, mundane details follow.

I've been 'doin' bidness' so much lately that I can barely find time to read. When I get like this I also excuse myself from writing. Not cool. I had so much family stuff to do this weekend that I didn't touch the work stuff I brought home in order to keep up. So it's Monday and I'm already sinking, and I'm making things worse by taking time out to blog.

I got a message from the Dean this morning that she wants me to do a week-long writing camp over the summer. I'd get paid a lot of money. So I started making phone calls, and already it seems like this idea is too late for this camp to be feasible. Maybe next year, unless the Dean really wants to push.

Other stuff--

Student papers I have no intention of grading
A request from the Provost
Four course descriptions I need to write for this afternoon.
Reminder about a Meeting tomorrow.
Seven unsharpened pencils.
The Book You Are Here that has been traveling in my diaper bag since I bought it some time in December.
Two pairs of earrings.
Sticky-notes in every size and color.
A calendar.
A pink flamingo pen (I call it my trailer trash pen).
Shakespeare action figure (with removable quill pen).
A quarter and a dime.
A Lean Cuisine pizza.
A glass hedgehog.
Pictures of my kids.

Everything else I trashed or stuffed in a drawer on Friday.

Before I go to bed tonight I WILL finish a draft of this poem I have been writing because otherwise I'm going to lose it.

Sorry I'm so boring today.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Chocolate-Covered Peeps

I have seen (and partaken of) fried twinkies, funnel cakes, blood sausage, alligator po-boys, alligator sausage, crawfish beignets, every type of meat on a stick, and who knows what else. But never before today's trip to the Junk Sale in Abita Springs have I seen chocolate covered Peeps--the chick-shaped ones in purple, yellow, and pink, presented in a pint-sized strawberry basket filled with Easter grass.

Aside from the Peeps, the junk sale was no big thrill--rebel flags, handguns, yard dolls, and long rusty swords for sale. I bought nothing, but I did take my kids to the UCM museum, which is GREAT. It's an ever-evolving walking tour resplendent with found objects. Every inch is decorated and part of the display. And the artist also does really strange taxidermy--dog with gator head attached, that sort of thing. There's also a trailer set to look like a UFO crashed into it. When you get up close and look into the windows, you see aliens dressed in human clothes--pretty funny. I snapped a picture of my oldest standing next to a gorilla dressed in a Mardi Gras ball gown.


On a different note, I got my color done today. I and my hairdresser were feeling wild, so we went wild with my har. Nothing natural about it--blonde, deep-brown, and merlot-colored streaks at the crown. Defititely not natural looking or conservative. And I'm afraid it won't match with the outfit I am wearing to do my presentation at the Tennessee Williams Festival. Oh well. It has about ten days to calm down.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Stick


Kelli Passed me the Stick. Here's my answers.

You're stuck inside Farenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
I'm embarassed to confess this, but I get a little flushed thinking of Manly Pointer from Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People" (He smokes and cusses, and has a thing about amputees) And of course Holden Caulfield, and Ajax.

Last book you bought is: The Kite Runner, Smashed, The Writer's Idea Book

Last book you read: The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry.

What are you currently Reading? Smashed, by Koren Zailckas, The Reader Issue of The Georgia Review, and some short stories my friend Amy Ramsden sent for me to look at. Oh, and midterms.

5 books I would take to a deserted island:

20 volume OED
King James Version of the Bible
The Iliad/The Odyssey
Some sort of a Field guide
All of Shakespeare, including the sonnets

Who am I going to pass this stick on to and why:

Eduardo, because he's funny and I want to know about his crushes
Katie, because she's a talented artist and poet and seems so interesting
Adam Clay, because we've never met but share the Arkansas connection

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Thank You, F- You

I've been moping around for a week because I read a bad review of myself. It's must better to be unnoticed, writing poems for heaven with little or no recognition. I do not have thick skin. I cannot just shrug things off. I'm more of a backpack those grudges to the grave type.

What happened was I was reading arund in the forums at Able Muse and found a topic concerning a recent anthology in--Phoenix Rising--in which I am featured. The editor sent me a copy of this book months ago, and I was so mortified by it that I hid it somewhee in a shelf in the bathroom. The reviewer for this book had a similar, vitriolic response to the book. I was chuckling and agreeing with every slur he spit until he quoted from one of my poems and called it "awful."

Yep. That's right. Awful.

Talk about a sucker punck. There they were--four lines from my poem, which, when taken out of context with no explanation (it was a dramatic monologue in dialect, in the form of a blues song with shortened ballad stanzas), did sound pretty awful. Actually, the reviewer found the lines so awful that he spared me the discomfort of printing my name by the poem. Geesh. If I had known he thought my writing was awful I would have stopped pestering him (he's also an editor) with poems long ago.

Thus ends the F- you part of this entry. The thank you part goes out to the poet who picked my manuscript Squeezers as the winner of a chapbook contest. This person called the day after I found the review, which also happened to be the day after my 33rd birthday, to tell me I was the winner. I was very humbled when she read the judge's citation to me. You all know how I feel about 'prejection,' so I won't get any more specific unil it's formally announced.

Now for the full text of that awful poem, slanged and unworhy of the art and undesirable as it may be.


Woman, one morning
you’ll open your eyes
and sweetest Pierre
will be gone—no goodbye.

I’ll be in my pirogue
out at the spot
where I hooked the fattest
bass I ever caught.

I’ll spend the day fishing
and drinking my beer
without ever wishing
I’d brung you out here.

Nighttime I’ll dock where
the lake meets the river
and dance at Tin Lizzy’s
and find a new lover.

I said I was going—
don’t make the mistake
of thinking I’ll listen
to the excuses you make:

Pierre, Pierre,
don’t leave today—
what about the fiddle
you love to play?

What about the hound dog
asleep in the yard?
Your children? Your house?
Is loving us so hard?

Pierre, come back, baby,
I’m losing my mind.
Who’s going to warm
this pear of mine?

Don’t lift your skirt up
and dance in your slip.
Don’t try to kiss me
with your voodoo lips.

My dog doesn’t love me—
you trained him to bark
at my fiddle and my footsteps
when I come home past dark.

And sex? You’re pretending
or my name ain’t Pierre—
I know what would happen
if I touched you down there.

I told you one morning
you’d open your eyes
to find sweet Pierre
had done left you. Goodbye.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Ten Poems Like Me

Ok--some of the other poets are listing ten poems that would serve as an introduction of themselves to the world. Already I'm confused--is the idea to list ten favorite poems, or ten poems that, for whatever reason, are like you in some way. I'm going to try to make a list of the latter, with the understanding that the poems on the list would fluctuate day to day, depending on mood, outlook, etc.

So here are poems that seem to fit me today, in no particular order.

Robert Burns: "To a Mouse"
Francois Villon: "In this Whorehouse where We Hold Our State" (An untitled ballade from The Testament translated by Galway Kinnell.
James Wright: "As I Step over a Puddle at the End of Winter, I Think of the Ancient Chinese Governor"
Barbara Hamby: Any one of her odes, esp. from her new book Babel
Elizabeth Bishop: "Under the Window: Ouro Peurto"
Li Po: Drinking with the Moon (?) Not sure of translator--it's from the Norton World Lit--I think it could be Arthur Waley.
Andrew Hudgins: "Praying Drunk"
Gwendolyn Brooks: "We Real Cool"
Ai: "The Cockfighter's Daughter"
e. e. cummings: "Buffalo Bill's"

I have no idea how these poems are connected. Either they make me snicker, or shiver, or both.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Writers Friends and S--t at Work.

This week has not been a great one. As usual, I have taken on too much responsibility at work without even stopping to consider how I will finish everything. Then there's the work that certain *&^^%*!s dump on me.

It is so tempting to drop this job. I am underappreciated, underpaid, overworked, underrecognized. There is asbestos in my office, there is asbestos dust on my poetry notebook, and I have been slighted two times this week. But--I have my kids in this montessori school I wouldn't be able to afford otherwise, and despite all this, I still care very much about my students, even when they don't show the kind of enthusiasm they should when I talk about Whitman and Dickinson as I have been for the last few days.

A few of them make up for the rest. I have this one brilliant student who is a trumpet player. The other day he said,"Walt Whitman is kind of like Miles Davis--they both pull everything into their poetry/music."

Really, it's hard to argue with that.

Last night I heard from an old friend who had been in Thailand for the most part of a year. I had no idea. How is it possible to have a friend in Thailand and not even know about it. Welcome back AR! I thought she was joking, and that when she said ". . . . and then I went to Thailand" she was using Thailand as a metaphor. She came back just before Christmas because she got run over with a mo-ped.

Ah, writer friends.