meta-blogging: past, present, future

Well, gosh.

I suppose apologies are in order, first of all, for disappearing off the face of the Internet. For those who follow me on Facebook, you know that I haven’t completely vanished or anything, but it’s been a disservice to those of you who care about my whereabouts and only have access to this blog and/or Twitter. So: everything is fine! I’m alive!

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way.

CSHS has been a bit of a trial. To be frank, submissions have not come in as regularly as we’d hoped, and neither Tessa nor I had capacity to do things like promote and market it, to try and drum up some interest. (For those of you that have showed interest and support, thank you.) But on top of that, something I’ve been keeping under my hat for a little while — which is now public, so I can talk about it — is that I’ll be taking over the editorship of Assaracus starting on 1 September, not to mention going back to school a bit. So, that’s been on my mind. The result of all this is that Tessa will be taking the reins of CSHS from here on out, and I will be in a support role as needed; details to follow, but probably on the CSHS blog, and from Tessa.

That’s the past. At present, I’ve just started my two-week residency at the Vermont Studio Center, which means life has slowed down enough that I can get things done, such as this blog post. This summer has seen a lot of motion under the influence of Various Forces; stillness is a welcome reprieve. It occurred to me that it’s been almost two years since I even submitted anything for publication, and most of that time has been spent developing my craft, workshopping, making more connections in the writerly world, hell, even just reading more. Dream goal: to leave here in two weeks with a manuscript draft in hand. Barring that, I’ll settle for getting more into a rhythm of getting work out into the world more again.

Maybe that sounds self-serving… but I think that lately I’ve felt my writing disappearing into a vacuum. I don’t write for any greater purpose — certainly not at my day job — and the extra stuff, the blog, the journal, etc. is all done without any benefit other than the strengthening of bonds with others out there who write too. My day job pays rent and loans, engages my mind, connects me with coworkers, and feeds me lunch; there’s little tangible result to my writing these days. I want to try to make my writing more valuable to myself again; it’s not that I need some kind of adulation or reward for getting my thoughts out onto the page, but there’s only so many hours in the day, and when I’m forced to choose, the adult-busywork stuff has a lot going for it nowadays, which is bizarre. Balance is needed!

In the interest of going “pro” with all this, I’m going to be shuttering this blog for a bit. Not forever; and hopefully not even three and a half months, which is how long it’s been since I posted on here. But I’m leaning towards building a “writer page” website, and keeping the majority of my public-facing stuff on it (as well as developing more public-facing stuff to even put on there). This blog may go private, and be more for very rough drafts (as it is now), random goings-on in my life that I don’t feel like sharing with the whole world, and other sundries. I may return to doing prompts and revisions, and keep those public. But anyway, details to follow.

Those are the main bits. I won’t be worrying too much about all this until I’m back from the residency, unless I get really bored and block-y one of the days. But I’ve been telling Tessa for days now that I’m going to make this post, so I forced myself to buckle down and write it.

As a side note, what the hell is up with this new WordPress post format? Yeesh. I’m searching around for tags and things, and it’s like re-learning how to tie your shoes.

napowrimo 2014: poetry giveaway!

I had to take a day off from posting after the frenzy, and today is the first day in 33 that I haven’t drafted a poem… it’s a curious feeling, as always. But I figure I should take this opportunity to announce the winners of books! Armed with my trusty number generator and looking back at everyone who commented, the lucky people are…

Rodney Wilder, Jr., who will be receiving a copy of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Andrea Blythe, who will be receiving Live from the Homesick Jamboree

and Margo Roby, who will be receiving Challenges for the Delusional

Congrats to you all! I will reach out via email later today to confirm your win, get addresses, etc., and you should have the books within a reasonable amount of time, I hope.

oulipost 30: libertine composer

So, the final count is in…

- 30 poems for Oulipost
– 29 poems for NaPoWriMo (one was shared with Oulipost)
– 37 poems for Poetic Asides (bonus ones are thanks to Two-for-Tuesday prompts, but I’m also counting one of them as three because it was three sections of fourteen sonnet-ish lines each; if that doesn’t suffice, there were at least two drafts I threw out without showing them to the world)
– 2 poems for Monday workshop
– 2 poems for Thursday workshop

Which means that, holy shit, this post contains the one hundredth new draft I have done for the month of April. Which means additionally that I am going to just not write anything new for the month of May, I think…

This is not a feat I’m eager to repeat, but as it had been a while since I was in any kind of generative mode, it’s nice to be back in one. I’ll spend the next several weeks going through what I’ve written, and my hope is to pull out ten poems that I can edit and develop and turn into something worthwhile. It’s been a wild ride.

Today’s Oulipost is to use pieces of all the other Oulipost poems one wrote during the month… and so this is what I’ve got. Enjoy!

Libertine Composer Premieres Manifesto for Flute and Bodies, in F Major

My rhythms are European imports:
Broadway fades through observation of
erotic society. I include particular
attention to inhalation:
the denied modesties and the Deeds
Not Mentioned. When the brothel
turns to jungle, my bedroom mechanism
knows which glory to shoot.
A flair for the dramatic and a new,
reckless grace: this hedonist wants
semen to twist into sea ice.
The sex-party runs coronas over memory
and men’s room fantasies.
My alphabet of interplay arcs from artist
to zouave, and every motherfucker
one could covet in between.
Mortality is an architecture
I’m burning out of by kissing like wild birds.
I prepare my pure philosophy:
great people know what regular people
want. A liberation miracle. A vision
in emptiness. A man in motion who purrs
specifics, beautiful poets, a honey-water
woman with a wonderful wish.
I crave and murmur and make it all
into the music of desire.

poem-a-thon 30: at the wake

Last day of April. Ye gods, I did not think I would get here in one piece.

I’ll write a happier poem after this one I guess, but the NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a “farewell” poem, and all I could think of was Nicholas. But then it spun into thinking about his ex, who I won’t name, from whom he acquired what killed him. There are few experience more surreal and rankling than sitting at a memorial for someone with the person who was, in some indirect way, responsible for their death, and knowing that it was almost you who could have been the victim.

That’s about all I can muster to say about that. I think this will take a lot longer to fully melt and unpack.

At the Wake

The last time I saw your murderer,
it was the crowning of September.
All reddening oak and piano damper.
We met in a courtyard paved with brick,
and your murderer– he didn’t look sick.
Mouth unmoving. Beard grown thick.
I couldn’t bring myself to do it,
to spit in his eye, though we all knew it:
how he didn’t even try to push through it.
You took the bullet I dodged, in the head.
You shared his quiet murderer’s bed
and were the one who died, instead.
I want to announce this to everyone–
but we don’t discuss the bullet, the gun.
We talk of doing, not of what’s done.
He’ll pass too, one day– I want to say amen
but I unearth only grey. I’m only certain
of this: I won’t see you, or him, again.

oulipost 29: rock’n’roll legend

While I love the Oulipost concept for the prompt today — “Canada Dry“, the champagne of soft drinks, meaning a prompt that seems like restricted writing but isn’t — I don’t think I have the time or patience to really do it justice as I’d like. I just took some biographical factoids from a slush piece about Bruce Springsteen, and started by deleting all the proper nouns. Then I deleted a lot of other things. And just got this dashed-together sketch which was erased and re-arranged, not particularly carefully and not particularly artfully, because, well, Canada Dry.

Seriously though, I love the concept. After this hellish month draws to its conclusion, I’ll have to go back and give the idea another whirl.

Rock’n’Roll Legend Discusses Impact of Parents’ Divorce

A 14-year-old sees his childhood home
on the popular variety show. Inspired to be
in front of an audience, he could then
guitar a wonderful wish. His mother, having
60 bucks to buy obscure songs,
fails physical meaning, will always say
his father would probably die straight.
When he came home, his father said,
audition in front of the man who had
a relationship in spite of everything. He was
giving him so much, once. Music that night
made everywhere spring. The effect
and the relationship, ugly/beautiful, came out.
The bottom line: all three things made him
a megastar, used up and spit out.
He has outlasted most of the married.
The footnote in his life? He kind of laughed off
the personal things: marrying, and kids.

poem-a-thon 29: momentary epic

Home stretch time! There’s a bare handful of poems (five or six) between now and the end of the saga that has been NaPoWriMo… I’m really very tired. I’ll have a final count of the number of drafts I’ve churned up this month tomorrow night, but really it was too many for any one person. Still, I do feel shocked into a more productive mode these days; spring juice is only part of it.

The prompt for today was to do Jim Simmerman’s “twenty little projects“, which I’m pretty sure I’ve done before. My extra challenge to myself was to get them all into twenty lines, and — by fudging the requirements a little — I think I managed to do so. You should go to the NaPo site to see the full list, and then if you want me to defend the presence of any one of the projects, I’m happy to do so, though I ma not articulate that defense very well, because it was friggin’ exhausting. Anyway, this happened yesterday, and I wanted to write about it. I’d like to write about it better, but one does what one can for prompts, ne?

Also, I crammed so much Greek mythology allusion in here that I’m set for a year.

Momentary Epic

Police stand off against the five young Medusas
whose backpacks are houses, whose dreaded hair hisses.

Though the day rings lovely through the flowering pears
and the sign reads “Open to the Public”–not all who share

this space are welcome, it seems. This afternoon’s agita
draws negative swords of light on each young Andromeda

chained to a penniless rock. Like the angel guarding
the Garden, sulfurous and skyscraper-high, like Moses parting

seas of bitter water, police shoo along the gutterpunk kids.
One shakes free and growls, a la chingada, you fuckin pigs…

now they’ll get it. Voices crescendo. The pear trees cower.
This diorama will unfold into a comment on the abuse of power.

Across the street, a friend says, Joe, get your camera out
he does, jumps through traffic hood to hood as the cops are about

to take their frustrations out on some young sandpaper faces.
He films the ready fists– so the actors all freeze in their places,

and the cops turn, mad-dog-vicious. Their breath is hot and wet–
they back off. Footage will show them climb into their car saying get

lost. Beat it. And the kids orbit out, wary, having eaten of the lotus.
Democracy moves in a mirror painted gold with small heroics.

oulipost/napowrimo 28: shrink’s wife

In an odd case of synchronicity, NaPoWriMo’s prompt today was to use text from a newspaper; so naturally, without even trying, I am cramming this together with my offering for Oulipost today (a melting snowball), creating the unholy beast known as the NaPOuliPoWriMoSt. The good thing about this unholy beast is that it was pretty light on my brain today, which I needed, because I wrote a golddurn triptych poem for Poetic Asides today about some heavy emotional stuff, plus a piece for workshop. Which catapults me, by some kind of count, into the nineties (in terms of number of April drafts). Ughhhh.

But, something wonderful is that NaPo also featured CSHS Quarterly on their site! There’s still nine hours left to submit for the Alchemies issue; better late than never, eh?

Fun facts about this poem’s source (an interview with the owner of a new Montreal-style bagel shop here in NYC) include the fact that “all-hands-on-deck” was in there, as was “eye-to-eye”, which I shamelessly carved up. I tried to keep the words in the order they appeared, but I was desperate to have honey-water in there, so I messed with it a bit.

Shrink’s Wife, a Local Poet, Assesses Hubby’s Methods

Therapeutically:
all-hands-on-deck.
Aesthetically:
observations problematic.
Honey-water:
beautiful together.
Certain things:
other.
Work:
eye – to – I.

oulipost 27: expectant couple

I’ve lost track, but I think this is poem draft 88 for the month of April. Can I hit 100 by the end, the big finish? Here’s hoping. And then I’m going to crawl into a hole and die for two weeks, then slither out and revise for several more. I’ve stated that if I hit 100 drafts this month, I’ll be happy if I can pull out 10 which are decent enough to turn into Real Poems. Ten within one month seems like a respectable number.

The Oulipost prompt is another sonnet-y one, an irrational sonnet with the stanzas divided into lines equivalent to the first five digits of pi: 3, 1, 4, 1, 5. I tried to stay pretty true to form, pulling out whole lines of iambic pentameter (sometimes a bit long or short) from the Voice‘s weekly event listings, padded with a couple of filler words to keep the narrative structured and rhyme-ish, along with a questionable turn from “he” to “she”. The line break change actually doesn’t do much for me; I guess it’s supposed to create a different sense of balance among the parts of the poem, but if I had no line breaks whatsoever, I feel like it would read much the same. But I’ll let y’all be the judges.

Expectant Couple Named Artists-in-Residence

Although we’re never taken far beyond
analysis of sound and language, we
will have to introduce a bill to ban

this man in motion, doing stuff: maybe

he purrs instructions to the pregnant woman,
says no, it’s not a midlife crisis. He
will carefully study different kinds of voices.
In lyrics written with her mother, she

is kinder, gentler, but no less confusing:

a week of readings, talks, and master classes,
appearances by poets, scholars, the
approachably experimental. It’s
their seismic sense of interplay, what
they do with the specifics of his face.

poem-a-thon 27: ubi caritas

I don’t often let bits of old religion glimmer into my poems with honesty, but I’m in a mood this morning, and there it is. NaPoWriMo offered photos for an ekphrastic prompt; I didn’t really take them up completely on it, but here’s the photo that I had a resonance with:

snow

Tying it into the Poem-a-thon theme once again, lightly. Guilt-and-humility poetry is a lot harder to write than it looks, guys, at least with integrity. I’m not thrilled with this one’s form, but at least it’s true.

Ubi Caritas

Patrick tells me that he and his wife have opened
their home to the homeless: the first floor becomes
an emergency B+B in the winter. They’ve stocked
towels, coffee, soap, cereal, change. Nobody stays
more than one night, but they have a list of other
Samaritans’ numbers to complete the circuit of hope.

This reminds me of my friend Mose, who took in
an Alaskan boy, Kevin, hitchhiking across the country
after his parents kicked him out. Mose found him
cruising our usual dive: a week later, his hair untangled
and his skin unearthed with body wash archaeology,
Kevin’s face regained life. Mose didn’t touch him once.

When I track through the frozen city, I keep one hand
tucked in my pocket, dollars ready, but no one about.
I’ve seen the cagey looks that go with the ready hand:
grates and shelters are safer than following strangers.
I see a huddled shape and give, but want to give more.
I want to be trusted, to know what giving is for.

oulipost 26: ask a psychic

And lastly, before I cave in on myself in a singularity of poetic burnout, another lighthearted-fantastical one for Oulipost‘s beautiful outlaw (belle absente) prompt. I took the name Orson Welles for this one: the first line is written without the letter “o”, the second without the letter “r”, etc. Managed to even get some rhyme in there! All words are sourced from an article in the Voice about his film version of Othello, and turned into a goofy new age vaguery piece about dreams. Go figure.

Five poems today. Fin. *mic drop*

Ask a Psychic (see Page 13)

The scrap-fabric mysteries are seductive:
easy to decode and easy to believe.
A ribbon of dream fanning out like vertigo
is assembled in the hair, wispy-refusing-stiff,
as the dark fits together, bright but slow.

A mosaic might be made (and then undone)
by imagination. Who could look away?
Or, the setting may rather be pieced together,
each jagged vision in emptiness, one by one:
iron grillwork, black flags. A body of a play
you need can be learned, or embittered.