Friday, July 31, 2009


I love when writers talk about process, and though I don't know if there's anything specific here, I keep thinking I should get this stuff down.

I mentioned briefly in an earlier post how I had that kind of epiphanic moment on the plane. Well, I've written six poem drafts in the last two days.

From what I've read on blogs over the years, it seems like this may be some kind of transient phenomenon: poems literally making themselves apparent almost more quickly than you can try and write them down, usually before some big life change. Ours seems to be the move, since I really wasn't writing a lot the few weeks before we got married. And the slingshot effect does tend to happen with me more often than not, for better or for worse, though it's always exciting and bizarre when it does.

I need five pages or so to have a full 48-page second manuscript. Poems will eventually be cut for new ones. Poems will eventually be rearranged. Sections may happen eventually. I've changed the title, and I've lost "Nocturne" from every title except one, the one where it's an integral part of the title. But things are finally happening with this. Legitimately. And editors have been supportive in accepting poems for publication, many that I've still been tinkering with post-publication, something I didn't do a lot of with the poems in Ghost Lights, for whatever reason.

I've noticed also that right now there are only a handful of poems that go beyond the one-page mark. I had a fear that Ghost Lights, or About Ravishment in its first series of drafts, was getting ignored in part (a very, very small part, because there were many reasons folks were ignoring it in its early stages) because there are so many longer poems in the book, though none that go over two pages I don't think. It's tough to write a good longer poem that holds someone's interest: it's as simple as that.

But I've noticed I haven't felt the need to write and write and go on and go on as much, as if some of the poems make themselves apparent, say what they need to say, hopefully make an impact, then linger, though fairly quickly this time around, meaning to the point where the poems do linger. If that makes sense. I don't need thirty to fifty lines to execute successfully with these poems, or at least they seem to be finishing themselves well before I stray off the path.

I think this is a good thing, but then there's the question of a shorter poem really having to do more with every word, every verb, every adjective, enjambment, and line. There's no room to stray or have anything extraneous in a shorter poem, where sometimes in a longer poem that can be overlooked somewhat to a certain degree.

The manuscript, admittedly, is a mess right now, but my goal is to get five more pages of new work to integrate temporarily into it so I have a full 48 before we move to New York. That's a goal I'm pretty sure I can reach in two weeks. A lot of ideas are still floating around in my head.

My other goal: to have this manuscript accepted for publication before I turn thirty, which is two years and four months away, almost to the day. Too ambitious, I know, and if it doesn't happen that's fine with me. But I'd like to start something completely new in New York, a third manuscript that will eventually become my dissertation, a collection I can work four years on and have it be something I pour myself into for the entire time I'm there... This second manuscript, though it certainly feels like it will become a manuscript soon enough that I can send out (hopefully by next summer at the latest), doesn't feel like the one I need to be working on in New York, yet it feels like it's becoming a true book I can eventually be proud of.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the other advice, not quoted verbatim, that's been kicking around in my head for a while too: "A first book needs to have X very good poems to be successful, and all the others remain in existence around them." Many people have quoted that in different ways. I think this is great advice, but is there ever a book—second, third, fourth, etc.—that needs to be comprised of solely great poems, or attempted, if such a thing is possible, excluding a Selected or Collected?

There's just that weird gap between finally settling and never settling, and it seems if one doesn't make up their mind about one or the other, they're destined to cling to the latter, and nothing ever comes of that purgatorial sense of paralysis.

So I guess this all has to deal with the second manuscript. Folks with first books out or coming out, how have you dealt with these questions in compiling what will hopefully become your second book?

For me, if I stop questioning, I stop being passionate. And we all know what happens then.

First Book Interviews #22 and #23 - Andrew Kozma and Anna Journey

Since Jess and I will most likely be sleeping on an air mattress soon for a couple of days, since the logistics of moving often call for time being a bit out of whack as far as coordination goes, these are going to be the last First Book Interviews until September, most likely.

Once we're settled and moved and everything, I'll get back to the stack of books I have and this will continue.

For now, though, enjoy, and buy the books from all of these authors I've been interviewing...


#22 - Andrew Kozma

#23 - Anna Journey

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Wedding was great. Jess described it as "perfect," and that's all that needed to be said. We had so many great people there, friends and family, that it was more of a big party and celebration than some giant spectacle with everyone sitting in the pews wondering and wandering.

Really, I know everyone says this, but we're both lucky to be surrounded by so many beautiful people.


I still think I look like I'm twelve years old. We both do, actually. So it's kind of funny in that way. But the fact that we've been together almost six years made the wedding go very smoothly. I really wasn't nervous, though I did cry a little when Jess's dad shook my hand and said "Take good care of her Keith," before we walked onto the altar. He was crying a little too. How can you not lose a bit of emotional control at that point?

But then I quickly got my shit together.


Honeymoon was great too. We were at a resort in Punta Cana. Got an all-inclusive package and did a lot of lying on the beach and at the pool.

The beaches were topless too. That's all that needs to be said about that I think.

I still felt weird about being waited-on every place we went at the resort.

And we were surrounded by so many different people which was great. German. Swedish. French. Italian. Spanish. Dominican. African. So many countries were represented, and much to our surprise, Americans seemed to make up a lower number than most of the rest.

We only had one argument also: when I spilled red wine on Jess's white skirt because I had too many vodka and cranberry's. That's what happens sometimes when the drinks are all free.

I didn't think any poems came out of out it as we were leaving last Saturday, since it was all about relaxation and we never really went into town, but then on the plane back to Charlotte from Punta Cana, all of these lines kept floating around in my head, along with titles and ideas.

It was kind of epiphanic plane ride, weirdly enough.


Speaking of which, I was reading Joe Bolton again, and I still can't believe how utterly gifted he was at such a young age. He killed himself when he was 28, so really my goal was to get my first book out before then, just to see if I could do it, and miraculously it worked that way.

But so many of the poems clicked for me, and it's a shame not many people know his work at all. It will always be one of my favorite collections, and it's one of my goals to teach it as soon as humanly possible.


Speaking of teaching, I hope to pick Spanish as my language at Binghamton. I wish I would've taken it in high school. Why didn't someone tell me that it'd be more beneficial in the long run than German?


A lot to do in the next three weeks.

When I was home, after I got back from New York a few weeks ago, Jess called me to tell me our IMac basically took a shit on us. The Hard-drive failed.

I had the warranty, so the fixing was completely free. But we did, in fact, lose everything. Most important, to me, were the new poems. I have them all. And the newest version of book number two. I sent it to myself, luckily, before I left to go home. Everything in Ghost Lights is published or will be published, and Bear has the copy of the final manuscript, so all's good there.

The newest version of my C.V. was lost, but all the information is around, so it shouldn't take too long to get that updated.

Music can be retrieved again. Same thing with movies.

Maybe it's good it happened. A new start and pretty much a new 500 G Hard-drive.


I did see Bart Got a Room and Adventureland when I was home. Both I thought were very good, and they seemed perfect, though it was unintentional, as a double-billing.


2009 Ruth Lilly Fellowships Winners Announced.

Even though they didn't win, congratulations to friends and former classmates Tarfia Faizullah and Jonathan Rice for being short-listed.

I'm never lying when I say I owe so much to my classmates for how much they inspired me and helped me become a better writer, which I'll always try my best to build upon.

But they're both off to do, and have done, great things already, so keep an eye out for their names in the future, as you'll be seeing more.


Speaking of poets, big congratulations to Marc McKee, whose great first book, Fuse, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2011.

We traded manuscripts around March or so, and I really didn't have much to say except, "How is this still unpublished?" He's gotten a ton of a finalist nods in contests, so it was only a matter of time.

He also has another book that's floating around that's sure to be published soon too, so keep an eye out. I'm not kidding.

I hope to try my best to get some readings going with some of these poets whose books will be released sometime around the same time as mine.


And Bear sent out a message on Facebook today that Mark Conway was the winner of this year's American Poetry Journal Book Prize.

His first book, Any Holy City, is one I'm a fan of, so I was pretty thrilled to find out that we'll soon be sharing a press.

And yes, watch out for Dream Horse Press. I'm more and more thrilled each day to soon become a part of the poetic family.


Hardly a rejection in the last few weeks. I guess it's the slowest part of the summer...

I did get a note from a journal, which is the first I've ever received like this from anyone, that my stuff made it past the first round and is going to a second round of editors. We'll see in a few weeks what their decision is.

And found out in my rejection from Ascent that, like Pebble Lake Review recently, they're going to soon be a strictly online journal starting later in the year. I imagine this will become a trend soon enough with many journals, a fresh and warranted trend at that.


Much more to do. Within the next few days I'll be posting two more First Book Interviews, which will probably be the last ones until September or so. With so much going on, I'm going to unfortunately have to put the attention I need to give all these great books on hold for a bit.

It may be more slowly updated in the upcoming months, but that's the way things go. I'm still doing it though, so once we're in New York and our lives are in order, hopefully I'll be able to put it on at least more of a semi-regular schedule.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Knot City

I'm getting married tomorrow.

We leave for our honeymoon on Monday.

Back later in the month.

Another First Book Interview will be posted then.

Moving preparation.

New York bound around August 15th.

More near August...

Saturday, July 11, 2009


After driving to New York and looking for apartments, I drove back to my hometown of Greenville in Western PA. It hasn't been as stressful as I originally thought it would.

I stayed with my sister-in-law's sister's boyfriend, who was a completely gracious host. Otherwise the trip would've consisted with me staying at some hotel for a few days. That would've been fine in the long run, but if I haven't said it before, I'm pretty much the world's worst when it comes to directions.

Luckily Mark was a trooper and ended up coming with me to all my appointments. We really liked a few that weren't necessarily out of our budget, but places that we weren't super excited to pay that much for, for at least 12 months, since hopefully we'll be looking for something like a condo or house after a year's over and we figure out exactly where we want to live.

But on a whim, our last stop, which I hadn't even originally planned on looking at, everything seemed to fall into place. Balcony. Second floor. Five minutes from Binghamton University. Dishwasher. Way cheaper than what we pay now in Richmond. Two bedrooms with two full bathrooms. The biggest thing, however, is heat's included. That'll also save us a ton of cash in the long run.

It's an older building, so not everything is modernized and renovated, but it's also utilizes space better than our apartment right now in Richmond. All-in-all, it was the place I immediately loved the most, and everyone usually says "You'll know when you see it" when you go apartment hunting.

The application is filled out, so I just need to call the woman who showed us around and get the ball rolling with deposits, having her get in touch with my current landlord, move-in dates, etc.

I'm not getting more excited than I thought I would when this whole process began last week.


Also, the drive back from Vestal was only about four hours and fifty minutes, versus the seven hours it takes me to get either to Jess's place or my own when coming home. Two hours may not seem like a lot, but when you've been driving seven hours to and seven hours from, five really feels like about three.


And yes, I need to mention that apparently I'll be surrounded by New York Giants fans. That thrills me to no end. Hopefully I'll be spending Sundays watching them in HD on our new TV, which I've been wanting forever but have agreed to wait for until we get married.

But should bars happen (and of course every once in a while they will to watch the game), I predict myself making fast friends. No more being surrounded by Redskins fans.

Plus they should be on pretty much every week. On cable I mean. Glorious.


The only city I didn't really drive into, funnily enough, was actually Binghamton. BU is in Vestal, and we also looked at apartments in Johnson City and Endicott. And yet there was still plenty to do. I don't need to live in Chicago or New York City to be happy like some folks. Smaller towns are perfectly fine with me, and the plus side is in this shit economy, you'll always be saving money in the smaller places.

But when we move hopefully around mid-August, I'm sure Jess and I will be exploring the city a bit more. Plus I didn't really go to BU, which I'm also looking forward to checking out once we're up there, moved in, and settled.


And Jess and I will be getting married in exactly one week.

This year flew by.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hello July

I have a poem in the new issue of DIAGRAM. They never disappoint. You should read through it.


CUE is now online. Richard Siken's poems blew me away. They're spastic, insane, forceful, and the sonics are nuts.

It has to be one of the sharpest designs I've ever seen as far as an online journal goes.


Yesterday Jess found a cockroach on her pants in the closet, and after chasing it around the room, and with a couple "blows to the head," it finally gave up before we flushed it.

I have to say that I hate bugs like spiders and roaches and silverfish and turn into a giant pussy when I have to kill them.

I had a rat in my kitchen when I first moved to Richmond and lost sleep over it for a few days. My brother said, "I would've slept in my car." I almost did.


I have some appointments lined up for apartments in and around the Binghamton area. Leaving Tuesday to go up to Vestal. Appointments Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday if needed.

Calling back Monday for a place that owns three apartment complexes, and calling another who owns a separate one so I can solidify time-slots and not drive around hopelessly in New York.

Then, when we hopefully have an apartment locked up, it's back to my hometown.

Then our wedding a few days later.

Then the honeymoon.

Then the move to New York.