Friday, December 21, 2007


Two feet of snow at Alta. A foot or more in the valley. It's like pre-global warming days when we actually had to wear mittens to school and made snowmen and took our sleds sledding. I might even ski on Sunday--like everyone else in the valley.
I'm so sad I have to leave on Thursday for MLA. Why does MLA have to be over break? As far as I can tell, there's not even talk about moving it. Chicago in less than a week. Grim.
Until then, there's Thirty-One's solstice party, Egg's folk's white elephant party, K-J gets in that night, then big family party Sunday, mellow Christmas eve at mom's and a less-than-usual crazy Christmas day. Some might even go skiing!!! On Christmas. We're heathens.
I've already got to see the lovely Dr. Write and Scorpion's Tail. We had delicious tapas at Martine. I hope to see more folks tonight at Solstice. If people trek through the many feet of snow.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What to Read Indeed

Some commenters asked how I decided what to read at the Retirement Center.

I decided to read the "cute" poem about Z being in the NICU. I explained to them that when Z was in the NICU, as hard as that was, we didn't know her very well and the whole thing was so alien that the emotional toll was much less than when, nine months later, she went back to the hospital for RSV and we could tell she was in pain and we all wanted to get out of there and we all weren't sure how things will turn out. So I read the Hagionoma poem about astronauts and NICU's that's in Nimrod. I forgot it was 4 pages long. I also forgot that I talked about my breasts being called "turtle boobs" by my sister and that I was fat and that a seal wanted to mate with me.
And then I read another poem about Z in the future and a boy who wants to, shall we say, deflower her.
My point is--I really didn't read my poems first and I probably should have. But the nice ladies laughed at the turtle boobs comment and didn't seem to outraged at any swearing moments or the losing virginity parts.

But tomorrow, I leave for NYC to read at the Center for the Book Arts with Rigoberto Gonzalez and I'm not sure what to read? I should practice! I should bring all the poems. I should remember to thank the NEA or they might take the grant back. I should download the logo and have it tattooed to my forehead.
I don't want to read only Z poems tomorrow. I think I'll read one about the Ilse Royale twisting itself off from the earth and becoming a planet on its own. And the one about the postman that Fellner loves. And maybe the MRI poem about birds.

I'm very nervous to go because:
  • it's going to snow and my plane will be late.
  • I'm supposed to meet my agent uptown (98th St.) at 11 when my plane gets in at 10.
  • I'm supposed to meet my sisters downtown for lunch at noon.
  • I can't check into the hotel until 3.
  • I have to be dressed, prepped and ready to read by 6.

I did buy a new coat for the trip. It's blue. I can't wait for Saturday when the aforementioned list of bullets has resolved itself.
And then, I can't wait for Friday when we leave for SLC!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Old Folk's Home

I was invited to give a reading at a Retirement center. A woman named Vernis, who read about the NEA back in February, contacted me for a reading in December. I was like, um, yeah, I'll remember a plan a made 10 months in advance. But, I figured, why not? She's probably more organized than I. She'll remind me. And remind me she did. I got several emails telling me where to go, how to get there, and in what manner the chairs would be arranged. It wasn't until the week before that I thought to ask, what time? I assumed normal reading time--6 or 7 or so.
No, no. 2:30.
Thankfully, I didn't have classes to teach that day.
So off to the reading, following her careful directions. There were so many directions, by sheer mass of turns and stops, I thought it would take half an hour to get there.
The retirement center is about a mile from my house.
So I got there at 2 and listened to NPR and wondered what these retirees would think of my weird poems.

I went in. I told them about the NEA. I told them about the state of contemporary poetry (they probably wouldn't argue my semi-studied description). I told them about how the project changed as I worked on it. I decried poetry contests. Then I read my poems.

They said they liked them. Better when I read them than when they read them on the page. Even though the poems were hard, they said, they liked the images. The poems made sense, they said.

They asked hard questions about form and purpose and teaching and reading and their own writing. The one man in the room corrected my pronunciation of hydrocephalus. They wondered about rhyme and line and I wished my students were as invested in poetry.

It was, by far, the best thing I did with, or rather, because of, my NEA.

The organizers, Vernis and her friend Jay, keep emailing me to tell me how much they appreciated the time and my "vibrancy." Once, Jay emailed and I didn't email back until the next morning. Vernis emailed to see if I'd received her email. I promised I did and that I had, finally (12 hours later, with sleeping time in the middle), emailed Jay back.
They keep emailing. It's one of the situations where no one knows when to quit saying thanks. But maybe that's how friends are made.