Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time for Visions & Revisions

Why am I smiling?

For one, my hair has grown back. If you don't know the story of my horrible of horribles haircut, you need only read my Pushcart-eligible blog post from June, dubbed Poetic Truth, for the lowdown.

By the way, I never seriously blamed Dubya for my bad haircut; it is, in fact, probably one of the few atrocities he isn't responsible for, but the point remains it was an awful haircut, and he's an even worse president.

But it isn't for sake of hair alone that I smile.

Last month, I placed third in the Pudding House Press annual chapbook competition, and as a result, Here's How, is being published.

So that's why I'm smiling. Mostly. There are other reasons, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Mythopoetic Route

I recently returned from a writers' conference in Vermont. I enjoy these conferences because, during my stay, I'm surrounded by other writers, many of whom share the same concerns as I. For instance, for this brief time, it's easy to find someone to talk to about poetry without any mention of Jewel or the dead pope's book.

I had planned, thanks to a not altogether serious suggestion from my friend Andy, to write a road blog. Given my penchant for parody, I'd intended to post, upon returning home, some quasi-Kerouac-y ramblings. As I beat a path toward the conference site on the bongos in my head, unfamiliar signs served as inspiration, delays in traffic a chance to jot down bits of unhashed thoughts.

Maybe not unexpectedly, but unfortunately, I went off the beat-en path somewhere, making an already long car trip even longer. I don't know where exactly--my slight detour to cross Walt Whitman Bridge? my pee stop at the Joyce Kilmer rest area?

Past midnight, Tyrannosaurus Hives blasting over the speakers, day old Stop'n'Go coffee spotting my 2003 conference t-shirt, I weaved through a frayed string of sleepy New England towns, tiny moonlit anvils tied to my eyelids, lost in dark metaphor.

I knew where I wanted to be, but not how to get there.

Buying gas & a jumbo coffee, I asked the cashier at the convenience mart, the only lighted place within miles, for help. She told me in great detail how to find I-89, even repeated her directions to make sure I understood, which I appreciated, but I was asking about my life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Poetic Truth

This dark photo shows me hiding in my own house after the bad haircut I got last week. I told the stylist that I wanted a razor cut, rough & jagged, pointing with my index finger, poked out from under the striped protective cloth, at the straight razor I was referring to. Think of anime--that's how I want it to look. She nods & begins to shave the side of my head with an electric razor.

No! I shriek, but too late. I say again what I want. She tells me that she'd never use the straightedge on my hair because it would look jagged--which, I remind her, is what I want, is what I'm sporting at the time, is how I've worn my hair for the past year.

The electric razor buzzes around my ears & the back of my scalp. I have to let her do this now because otherwise one side will be shorter than the other. When she starts to cut the top, I implore her not to use the electric, but the straight razor.

Again she refuses, opts instead for scissors, & immediately clips off a huge hunk of my hair, leaving a noticeable gap, which, blushing, she tries brushing extraneous strands at awkward angles to cover.

"Argh," I groan. "I think you took a bit too much."

"I didn't do it," she says, surreptitiously trying to coax my hair into a contorted comb-over.

"You didn't do it?" I say. "Did my hair spontaneously fall out while I was sitting here?"

"You have a receding hairline, sir," she fairly hisses.

Maybe it's the Bush administration's effect on society that causes her, standing scissors in hand behind the barber chair, to deny responsibility for the missing hunk of hair. Jesus, how are we ever gonna get out of Iraq?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gateway Poem

As a brooding teen, when I discovered "Grass," the conflict in Vietnam raged, despite pressure and promises to end it, and several classmates and I, leafing through our literature anthology on the fire-escape behind my junior high school, came across the Sandburg poem by sheer happenstance. We smoked and read, speaking with great effluence about the war, "Grass" having opened our minds. Afterward, I searched for other works that would give me that same high, lurking around the library, browsing the stacks for my next poetic thrill. Soon I was buying the stuff by the book-load--Leaves of Grass, Gunther Grass, Norman Dubie and so on. Then I moved to other writers. Anyone who knew me in those days could testify how much I'd gush, my nose ensconced in my Kenneth Koch stash. Still it did not stop. Perhaps if I were mechanically gifted, I'd construct a time machine to travel back to that summer evening when, having already tried so many other poets, I was introduced to Horace.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


What am I reading? Dean Young's Embryoyo. Funny story: I introduced myself to Dean Young about ten years ago at a writers' conference as a big fan--I'm over six feet tall, 200 plus pounds, and he, well, is not. To demonstrate, I waved my arms--big fan, get it?-- and quoted from one of his poems, something about needing a ladder to paint the sky. "That must have been a long time ago," he said, seeming not to recall the lines. He signed copies of Turbulence and Strike Anywhere, my two favorite Young books, and spoke with me briefly. Several months later, I'm reading at home when I discover that I'd mistakenly quoted David Lehman. If that's not funny, at least it's mildly amusing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

All thumbs for Gluck up

I never slept with Louise Gluck. I may have suggested otherwise in "Chimera" (Hunger Mountain, Spring 2006). Truth is, I've never met Louise Gluck, though I really enjoy her poetry, however different from mine. I like the terseness, the lack of sentimentality, both attributes to which I aspire in my work. In fact, her "Gretel in Darkness" reminds me of my "Songs to Aging Children" (Segue, 4.1). Both examine the later lives of characters in children's stories. I don't mean to compare our work, but if I were, I would say that my poetry is lots funnier.