Monday, August 11, 2008

Catching Up

The cat is almost officially out of the bag, meaning I've proposed to Jess, and she has said yes. I want her to pick out the ring, which everyone in my family has done, so we're probably going to start looking tonight. She's the one who has to wear it on her finger, after all, so I want her to be happy with it. I can't afford anything too crazy, but she can always upgrade it if she wants to I suppose. So, soon, amidst Ph.D applications and hopefully writing new poems and these first book interviews will be all the planning. It'll be in Pittsburgh, so we'll have to do a lot of it long distance, but that's fine. I hate the Steelers and their fans with a passion, but I do love Pittsburgh as a city, so I think it'll be nice, and I'm very much looking forward to everything.


I hilariously found out that my chapbook was a Finalist for the 2007 Poetry West Chapbook Contest. I say hilariously because I threw it together pretty quickly, its title is "About Ravishment," the old title of my first full length manuscript, and since I sent it to them about a year and a half ago, I thought the contest was dead, as I didn't hear this until a few days ago. I didn't even know if I still had a copy lying around since I changed to a Mac, but I did find it, and was happy to see almost every poem still in the current "Ghost Lights" -- only two of them have since been cut, and that's it.

I was thinking of maybe trying to get a new version of a chapbook together to send to some contests, but at this point I'd honestly rather continue sending out "Ghost Lights" and working on new poems, hopefully for a distant full length manuscript number two.


Eric and Jenn were here over the weekend from Savannah, and then Craig and Sam stopped by on their way back from the beach on Friday. We had a good time, though every time folks visit we always end up staying within the museum district and on our balcony. But I don't think there were any complaints.

I saw The Pineapple Express again with Eric on Saturday night, and I liked it a lot better the second time. I'm looking forward to the DVD, as the bonus stuff should be amazing. I hope David Gordon Green does a commentary and there's a cast commentary also. Maybe a "smoked up" commentary? Not sure how legal that would be. There should be some good shit on it at any rate.

Then, yesterday, when we were headed to the Watermelon Festival in Carytown, I told Jess to hold on while I grabbed my keys. But alas, my keys were nowhere to be found. We even looked in the over, the garbage disposal, and the freezer. I thought they grew legs and got the fuck out of dodge.

I kept calling Eric, though I knew his phone was probably going to be off. After we tore apart the apartment for about two hours, we came to the conclusion that Eric and Jenn had accidentally snagged my keys somehow.

Either way, they were gone.

So I called AAA, and they called a local locksmith. He was here in about thirty minutes, and with a buddy of his, in an hour made a key that opened the door, trunk, and started the ignition, all from just a metal key mold. I, at least, was pretty fascinated. It's all numbers and fractions of an inch and trial and error and codes. Then they said they were going to do shots of Sailor Jerry, which I had never heard of. And Sam told me that Belvedere Vodka with Sheetz peach icea tea -- since he found out that I was from western Pennsylvania -- is amazing, and of course it can only be mixed with the Sheetz brand peach iced tea. They were cool guys, they worked fast, and they amazed me.

Turns out Jenn accidentally grabbed my keys thinking they were Eric's. No worries, though. Things happen. Got an extra key for the car. And Eric mailed my keys back earlier today.

Now I know to have a spare, since I didn't, and that if you're really in a pinch like that, a key can be made to start your car.

Maybe everyone knew that. I didn't. I like being fascinated. I was fascinated.


It was weird and kind of surreal walking through Carytown for the Watermelon Festival, when we finally got there. Tons of people. There was a woman probably in her late 30s playing the spoons, and right next to her was a sign that said, "Need money for BB gun." And there's the heady amalgam of body odor, funnel cakes, seafood, charred ribs, candles from vendors, stale beer, sewer, and sweat. And that was when we got there at the end. I'm really going to miss Richmond.

I feel like this second "manuscript" I'm hopefully working on is going to be a kind of Richmond manuscript, involving nocturnes and the weirdness of the city, usually from a weird poetic distance, maybe out of fear. A book about the city. With lots of weirdness of course. And another chunk may be a weird project of photographic ekphrastic poems I'm excited to work on, though I'd rather reveal it once I have some solid poems written. We'll see.


First Book Interviews will soon be on their way to some poets. I think I'm past thirty willing folks now, so that's great. I want to keep the list going, so poets with first books, email me, and if you know interested parties, tell them to contact me.

I won't reveal any names, but I did encounter a few poets who didn't want to participate. Granted, their books were released a few years ago, and I can see why they don't want to participate, but I always found that kind of thing fascinating, the distance.

You dedicate so many years to completing this piece of art, whether it's three or thirty-three, and then you kind of disown it, or you feel so distant from it that it wasn't even written by you. I hope to never feel like that with mine, once and if it's ever published, but it may happen. If it does, though, I guess that's why you go on. I do hope these said poets have new books in the works, though, because their first books are amazing.


I don't like Phil Levine really as a person, as much as I can know him as a person. My bad run-in my first MFA year soured me kind of forever. His work's a different thing, even though half of it, at this point in my life, I'm not raving about. I'm sure that'll change in the future. But when he was here talking about Larry Levis, he said Larry, even at an early age, worked harder than any poet he knew. And that even when he was going through awful things like divorce and deaths in the family and affairs, he was always writing.

I think sometimes people forget how powerful poetry can be. Yes, you can write sestinas and sonnets to gain some poetical muscle (and of course they can be as powerful as any other poem, but I'm talking about using those forms to get words on the page), and you can write funny poems to entertain (even though some folks have said that all writing is entertainment, and that's a broadly defined word in the first place), but those words of Levine's have never left my head.

I remember my heart kind of stopped when he said it, and I remember who was there and where everyone was sitting and what the air smelled like around that table in Hibbs. It was a moment I knew I'd remember forever. We can always write, maybe not write through things, maybe not write to always ease pain or suffering, but always writing, no matter what's going on, seems to be something that defines a true sense of someone who writes poetry seriously (and no, there aren't enough, even though many would take offense to that, and even I sometimes think I'm not serious enough, actually often I think I'm not serious enough), especially since I hate that word "poet" and will never use that term in accordance with my name probably as long as I live.