Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Glory, In Wire

I wrote my first poem today in weeks. I always tell myself, "I don't need to write," like I'm trying to prove that I'm above it or don't need it in my life, and then when I don't there's this odd malaise that sets in, and I attribute to the lack of pushing words around the page. So yes, clearly I do need to write, and I need to start sticking to the draft-a-week plan.

It's another poem for the chapbook I think.

Speaking of which, I finally say down with my friend Nick the other day (you should buy his chapbook here)—my most astute reader, who's always honest and somehow hones in perfectly on the shortcomings and loose ends in my work—to discuss the chapbook. I now have many ideas where I can take it, and I still have poems to write that need to be in there. It feels that way to me at least. There's no reason to rush it I suppose.

The project's comprised of poems that I haven't really received comments on, mainly because I haven't sent them to people until a few trustworthy folks recently, as the chapbook.

I'm hoping if this doesn't turn into something that it'll at least help with future collections and projects. Since the chapbook is kind of inherently more like a sprint, you need to be ultra-cognizant of how poems fit together, what the chapbook's doing—its "agenda" I suppose—and how it ends. Even though many say, "Put your strongest poems at the beginning," I do believe in a fitting and should-be-perfect ending, however you want to define "perfect." Maybe I have no clue what I'm talking about. I don't think I ever do.


I hadn't looked at Ghost Lights in a while, so the other day I took a look at it and cut two poems. That makes it about 53 pages of actual poetry, and I'm really happy with that length. There were some contests in the past months that called for 60-90 pages of poetry, or at the very least 60— instead of the usual 48—so I had to sneak some more in there, and I think it seemed forced, just like it kind of had to be. Needless to say, I didn't like that.

I got a recent poem published that—if it fit anywhere—I thought would fit somewhere within Ghost Lights, as it's an elegy. That said, I couldn't find a place for it. I realized this is because the only thing I can really do now is cut poems. I don't think there's anything more I can say than what's in those pages through those poems, and the aforementioned poem seemed like an echoed amalgam of a few others already in the manuscript. And if I was writing new work to include poems, they'd be forced and wouldn't have the same kind of energy the current poems do. It's taken me about a year and a half to realize this.


I watched Lake City the other day, mainly because it was filmed in Richmond, though really it was Glen Allen I think. I recognized one five-second shot that was clearly an establishing shot, probably not part of the previous shot, that was in Shockoe Bottom. And I tried to Google some names of places and things, and I found some locations that are in Glen Allen, about five miles away. Most of the movie takes place in an old farmhouse, and the cinematography's easily the best thing about the movie. I never knew the surrounding area here was so gorgeous. It reminded me a bit of Tim Orr's contributions to the more lyrical movies he's filmed. Overall, though, it's not something you need to rush out to see. I say this too much maybe, but it reminded me of an MFA screenplay that somehow got the funding to back it. The story was a bit too loose and tried to do too many things, but I didn't hate it by the end, which is a good thing.


Congratulations to David Wojahn. It's more than well-deserved.

I'm fairly certain in saying that without his help and support and influence these last four years, I would be completely lost in the world of poetry.


And some noteworthy and necessary spins for me lately:
  • Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light
  • Various Artists - Dark Was the Night
  • Calder - Lower
  • Musee Mecanique - Hold This Ghost
  • Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country
  • Loney Dear - Dear John

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Book Interview #14 - Alison Pelegrin

Here you go, folks:

#14 - Alison Pelegrin

Sorry again for just one this time around.

I'm hoping two weeks from now I'll be able to get back to two every two weeks.

Lots of good ones to post, and many good ones upcoming.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fat Angel, Skinny Ghost

Arizona and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. As long as Philly's not in it, that works for me. It should be a good one. I'm glad not in western PA right now, as I'd have to listen to all the annoying Steelers fans, many fairweather and bandwagon also. If Cleveland had as many Super Bowl rings as Pittsburgh, you can bet there'd be more Cleveland fans in the area.

At any rate, I hope Kurt Warner gets his second ring. Gotta support the NFC (as long as it's not Philly or Dallas).


Five out of the eight schools I applied to got back to me about my applications being complete. Another needs payment, which somehow I forgot, so hopefully in a week or so I'll have confirmation that now all I have to do is wait.


Tusculum Review updated their site, and it looks good.

You can also pre-order the new Copper Nickel #11 and Barn Owl Review #2. They're both shaping up to be great issues methinks.


I think I'm going to gear up and edit this chapbook and wing it out there to some contests. Any suggestions for who has contests I should send to? I'm not as up to date with chapbook contests as I am with full-length manuscript contests.


A lot of first books I'm looking forward to in 2009. I've already been bugging some poets like crazy to do interviews. I saw work over the past years in journals from all of them, and I knew the books would soon follow. And they did.


Order Blake Butler's EVER. I just got my copy the other day, and it looks amazing. Derek White and Calamari Press did a great job. The design is really stunning. Now I just need some time to get in those pages.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Salt Hill

Just got a rejection from Salt Hill today... from October 1st, 2007.

All of the poems have since been accepted elsewhere, and because I never received anything from them (until now, of course), I already have another batch of poems that I sent to them a few months ago.

Any rejection beyond nine months (especially since most are form at that point), let's face it, is kind of annoying, but yes, it happens, and we deal with it. But what really annoys me is they sent back the seven or eight pages comprising the manuscript. I had 41 cents on the envelope.

Dear Salt Hill Editors,

Folding eight sheets of paper into a smaller window still makes eight sheets of paper the same exact weight. That means that in order for the post office to send it back to me, they need more postage, and if you're not willing to do that, which I wouldn't expect you to, please just send back the rejection slip.

What I realized was a day before I left to go back to Pennsylvania for Christmas to see my family the post office sent me a note that I had a pick-up that needed extra postage. I didn't have time the next morning to run there, so I put the note aside, and eventually forgot about it or didn't see it or misplaced it when I got back to Richmond.

But the fact remains: a ton of feathers weighs the same amount as a ton of lead.

At any rate, there have been other times this has happened with Salt Hill.

Am I the only one having problems with them?

It's as simple as not sending them work anymore, I suppose.

But again, and as always, I've been fairly lucky in the last few years to have such minimal problematics when it comes to weird situations like these, which is nice.

And thanks to the USPS for finally delivering it after almost four weeks, when it could've gone in the trash anyway.


I'm finally getting over the Giants loss to the Eagles. It was just an awful game. I'm sure it was said previously, but Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears sums it up: "When we win, it's a team win. When we lose, it's a team loss." With so many players, you can't blame it on Eli, or Gilbride's play calling, or anyone or anything else. Some plays went their way. Others didn't. But damn it hurts to lose to the Eagles.

Now there's talk of giving Eli millions to seal the deal. I'm OK with that. Like many have said, he has as many rings as Favre or his brother, and he still has many seasons to go to have a shot to do what few quarterbacks have done in winning more than one.

And will Plaxico be back? Who knows? Would we have gone further and not lost four out of the last five games with him in the line-up? Maybe.

It's going to be a very interesting off-season and a very few interesting months as the NFL in 2009 unfolds.

Needless to say, I'm now a Cardinals fan for the rest of the playoffs. I'd like to see Warner throw for about 500 yards, and hopefully Boldin is healthy.


Got the word that three out of my eight Ph.D applications are complete, which is nice to know. I sent quick emails to the other Graduate Coordinators to see when I'll find out they're complete. I'm anxious to know a decision, of course, but before that can happen, they have to have everything, and after all the work that went into all of them, knowing that they have everything is fine for now.


I recently traded manuscripts with a fellow poet whose work I've been a huge fan of these last few years. It's nice to see so many poets and writers recently have been very generous about showing their work to pretty much a complete stranger.

But his manuscript's an ass-kicker, it's been a finalist a bunch in the last few months for contests, and it's a manuscript I hope to see come out soon. There are many people who would flip over this book.

This has happened a few times in the last year or so, and everyone either has since found out their book is coming out, or I know they will be soon.

I almost find it more rewarding to delve into a "book" that may not be finalized with its full-color cover and ISBN on the back. There's something about poetic purgatory that's inspiring to me, and it makes the process much more interesting, knowing all of these poets (and hopefully myself) are getting closer and closer to their books getting the word that publication is happening imminently.


Two records that I've been enjoying lately: Tim Hecker's An Imaginary Country and Loney Dear's Dear John. Entirely different styles for different moods, but it seems that each artist has produced their most focused album to date. Tim Hecker's doing amazing, amazing things.


New issues in the mail lately that I'm excited to read:

- Ninth Letter
- Hayden's Ferry Review
- Zone 3
- The Journal

There's not enough time in a day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sure Thing, Joe Mayo

A few days ago I decided to suck it up and spend maybe way too many hours trying to assemble a chapbook of newer poems from the last couple of months. A few have been published, and every single one of the others is currently out in the world for consideration. If I didn't like the work, I probably wouldn't be doing this. I think.

I'm not sure of the project, where it'll go, if it'll turn into anything, etc., but I wanted to keep moving. It seems like there are enough reasons not to keep writing and working on poems and projects, and so many of those I don't, thankfully, have at this juncture.

I put together a chapbook once, a few years ago, and miraculously it was somehow a finalist for Poetry West. But I'm still not sure how much one has to sustain the work, if there can be bigger gaps of logic between poems, if the dynamic is changed since it's more of a sprint than any kind of distance-running.

Like a full-length manuscript, I'm just going, and hoping for some eventual destination.

Most importantly, though, is the move on doctrine. I'm not the kind of fool or egotist who says, "I'm working on my second book." I don't have a book. A book is something tangible, and if it's a .doc file or a pile of papers most likely imminently ready for the post-reader-"no"-"way" trash, then it's a manuscript. Which is why I don't know if this chapbook project will ever turn into something. I do like the poems, though, and most of them, at least to me, seem different than what's projected throughout Ghost Lights.

But while Ghost Lights is still making the rounds, I want to make sure I'm doing something productive on my end as far as my own work is concerned. I plan to be at this for the rest of my life, and that's a lot of time for too many excuses to come up with why I shouldn't be doing any of it.

And, welcomingly (which I don't think is a word, but should be), I just got a nice note from the Samuel Morse Poetry Prize. I wasn't a finalist or anything, but apparently I made it to the round just before, even though they only announced the finalists. Again, either way, it's encouraging for all the ink and paper to still snake its way through the hands of postal workers to states and states and states.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

First Book Interview #13 - Sarah Vap

There's only one today, but it's a good one.

#13 - Sarah Vap

I have many more to get out over the next few weeks, so once I get those going I can get back to doing two at a time.

My apologies to those of you who may have been expecting two.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Since the holidays were so busy, here's my Top 25 Records List for 2008 (Not 2007).

It's the only list I've made.

1) The Silent Years – The Globe
2) Hammock – Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow
3) Helios – Caesura / Live at the Triple Door
4) TV on the Radio – Dear Science
5) The American Dollar – A Memory Stream
6) Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight
7) Near the Parenthesis – L’Exaimple
8) Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
9) Fennesz – Black Sea
10) The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia
11) The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
12) David Wingo & Jeff McIlwain – Snow Angels Soundtrack
13) M83 – Saturdays=Youth
14) Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
15) The Week That Was – The Week That Was
16) Lymbyc System / This Will Destroy You – Field Studies
17) Library Tapes – A Summer Beneath the Trees
18) Maps & Atlases – You and Me and the Mountain
19) Jóhann Jóhannson – Fordlandia
20) Hauschka – Ferndorf
21) The Broken West – Now or Heaven
22) Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
23) Matthew Robert Cooper – Miniatures
24) Wilderness – (K)No(W)Here
25) Max Tundra – Parallax Error Beheads You

Friday, January 2, 2009


I was thrilled and shocked today when I got letters from The Zone 3 First Book Award and The Brittingham / Pollack Prizes telling me Ghost Lights was a Finalist for both of them.

I was hoping 2009 would be good, and it's started that way for sure.

Though, like everyone, I would've loved to get selected by Phillis Levin and Robert Pinsky, this only fuels the fire, as I'll be sending it out like crazy in the upcoming months.

I'm very confident with the book's structure and length and everything now, and this gives me even more.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year.