mimsy and outgrabe //

a record of panic, parenting, teaching and art-making


17.4.15

Post-Conference Pandemonium, Starring (Naturally) Yours Truly

The week after AWP is always the worst, not only because you leave your friends and the Bookfair and the readings and general good cheer, but because -- when you are me -- you return to all of the things you neglected to do BEFORE you left, and a long list of items to complete NOW THAT YOU ARE BACK.

And this year, because the conference took place during National Poetry Month and the month that our Creative Writing Festival takes place at SCCC, it's such a weird mix of annoying, world-of-academia bullshit and then also super-lovely celebration-and-good-things.

Yesterday, in the early morning before my own children were even attending their own classes, A.P. and I met with local high school students. We read them poems, some of our own and some of others (Kinnell, Berryman, Sanabria, McDaniel), and then answered their questions. They were sweet and attentive and gracious and it was the best way to start a day. I wasn't expecting that experience -- I don't know what I was expecting, frankly -- but it was really wonderful.

Then I drove to my campus. There, I spoke with one of my independent study students about the reading of the musical she's been working on -- the reading is taking place next week, and I'm so excited for her. While we were talking in the student lounge, my colleague M.S. was hanging the Poetry and Fiction Broadsides that her Drawing II and my Creative Writing students produced in collaboration. They are gorgeous, and inventive, I can't wait for my CW students to see the art other students created with their words. And then I ran to the cafeteria, because it was 11 and I hadn't eaten anything yet, and I saw my independent study student from LAST semester, and she gave me the absolutely lovely, super-good news that she was accepted into Hunter College's undergraduate creative writing program. 

SUCH GOOD THINGS.

Just totally uplifting and happy-making, right? And then I drove to another campus and had my soul slowly sucked away by a Distance Education meeting. Because Committee Work. Because Bureaucratic, Administrative, Power-Stupid Nonsense. Because it went over 2 hours long and so I didn't make it home until 6:45 in the evening. 

It. Was. A. Long. Long. Day.

But such ups and downs! This week I've been emailing back-and-forth with the printer for the student lit magazine I advise, and it's been palpitation-inducing trying to get everything right so that we can have an issue in our hands when we host the Issue Release Party and Reading we organized, as part of the CW festival, on Wednesday. (It makes more sense if we have copies of the issue at the issue release party, right?) Also, holy due dates! It feels like everything is NEEDED RIGHT NOW. I had to make sure I submitted an application for funding for NEXT YEAR'S professional development on time (by April 15). Also looming over my head is the deadline for the 2016 AWP Panel Proposals, which is at the end of the month (and keeps crawling closer and closer).

For the record, I need both the professional development (a theatre residency/graduate credit course) and a major conference presentation for my next promotion application, which is due in June of 2016. It's ridiculous, I know, how far in advance I have to set these things in motion, but there IS an end to it all. I'm applying for full Professor next year, the last of the promotions, and then this song and dance crap will end.

Or at least, that's the fairy tale version. We all know that I'm liable to find myself JUST as busy and frantic even after I'm promoted because that's just the way I roll. But perhaps the frantic-ness will derive less from soul-sucking stupid stuff and more from the uplifting, celebration-of-art kind of things in which I like to immerse myself.

Onward into the fray and all that jazz. Cliche, cliche, cliche and so forth. My brain is mushy. I can't wait to start writing again and reading again and I hope that's what the summer holds.


30.3.15

Big Poetry Giveaway 2015

I'm going to participate in the National Poetry Month hullabaloo by joining this <<<< circus, The Sixth Annual Big Poetry Giveaway, because 1) contrary to the loner/cranky poet stereotype, I like joining things 2) I like attempts to get people to read more poetry and 3) I'm curious to see how this turns out.

If you keep a blog and you're a poet and you'd like to participate, see Kelli Russell Agodon's Book of Kells post for the dirt on how to join in. If you'd like to participate in MY Big Poetry Giveaway, here's what you have to do:

Leave a comment on this post with your name and email address (you should probably use the [at] format instead of the @ format so that spam-bots won't suck up your email address and overload your account with nonsense about discount handbags and/or sexual performance enhancers). 

Hell, leave a comment on ANY of my posts during the month of April and I'll include you in the drawing. 

What am I giving away, you might ask?

WELP. I'm giving away a crapload of awesome things. This is far more than the Big Poetry Giveaway requires, but the way I figure it, I might as well GO BIG during my first and possibly only attempt at this. TWO READERS WILL WIN ONE OF THE FOLLOWING GROUPS OF BOOKS:

GROUP/PRIZE ONE:

1) A copy of Jessica Cuello's By Fire, a chapbook of exceptional poems about a 13th century Cathar noblewoman by a talented fellow Hyacinth Girl Press author. Here's a blogger review of the book if you're interested in learning more.

2) A copy of Stephanos Papadopoulos's The Black Sea, which ALSO explores history -- albeit a very different history -- through a beautiful series of sonnets and persona poems that recreate the/a narrative of the Pontic Greek massacre. Reviews of The Black Sea by the Hudson Review's David Mason and poet A.E. Stallings can be found archived here.

3) The Gettysburg Review's Winter 2014 issue. I will have an undying loyalty to this journal because they were the first magazine to take a chance with my Fabulous Beast poems. Also, in a freak occurrence I received, like, three copies of this issue . . . so why not share the love?

and finally

4) A copy of my own chapbook, Fabulous Beast: The Sow, which received this generous and thoughtful review from Paul David Adkins in Luna Luna magazine.


GROUP/PRIZE TWO:

1) Kelly Boyker’s Zoonosis, another gorgeous -- inside and out, -- collection of poems from Hyacinth Girl Press. You can read an in-depth, really wonderful review of the book by Carlos Matos at The Cleaver Magazine.

 2) A copy of Adam Penna's Little Songs and Lyrics to Genji, remarkably fine and heartbreaking poems from the guy I share an office with. Poet George Held wrote a lovely, generous, and spot-on review of the book which is archived here.

3) The Gettysburg Review's Winter 2014 issue! Let's get those extra copies read!

and, of course

4)  Fabulous Beast: The Sow, published by the fantastic feminist micro-press, Hyacinth Girl Press

Readers of this blog have until April 30 to make a comment on the blog. In May, I'll put all names into a hat/bowl/discarded children's easter basket and pick super lucky winners. Or something to that effect. This assumes I'll have more than one name to draw!




20.3.15

On Not Quitting (Not Quite Yet) Feat. A Flagrant Overuse of Commas

This semester I think I've come as close to quitting my profession as I'm going to get. 

I mean, I won't, because, first and foremost, I need a job that helps support my family, but ALSO because I've invested a LOT of freaking time and effort into doing this particular job, this career, and how does one just walk away from all of that? I suppose it would be one thing if I'd made Full Professor and I'd jumped through all the hoops I was supposed to jump through, but I haven't, and so: How do I leave behind all the hard work to get where I am, with just a tiny bit more to go? (I apply for Full Professor at the end of next year.)

This feeling, this closeness-to-quitting, stems from more of the same, not enough hours in the day, but it differs from previous years because, perhaps for the first time, it's not really tinged with resentment. I mean, sure, did I grumble yesterday about my students obsessing over grades on papers but not really connecting those grades with their efforts in class or their attempts to actually learn the material? Yes, yes I did. But that's grumbling, not the insidious, vein-lining, green-muck of resentment, where one blames and blames and blames and feels oppressed and put-upon. I don't feel like that. I know quite well how I arrived at this point (STAGE WHISPER: IT WAS ME! I DID IT TO MYSELF!!) and yet I'm not really blaming myself either. 

I'm at a point where I clearly can't do all of the things I've agreed to do or want to do, but the solution doesn't seem to be a matter of giving up tasks or roles I've taken on at work. It feels bigger, like I should just dump the whole damn thing and walk away. Because my job requires multi-tasking, taking on several different roles, and frankly, I don't think I'm good at it.

When it comes to teaching, I'm sloppy in my lectures and class prep and I'm absurdly, to the point of laughter, dismal with my grading and feedback to students; and when it comes to the non-teaching, the committee work and service to the college, I'm failing because of my inability to delegate responsibility and relinquish control. 

I'm not even beating myself up when I type these sentences. These are facts. I'm just layin' 'em out there.

And I know, I sound like a broken record. If you've read this blog for a while, you've read this all before. (And frankly, how are you still here? You deserve some kind of medal for perseverance and optimism.)

So what is it that makes me not-quit, besides the practical I-need-a-paycheck? Is it REALLY just obstinacy? How boring, but probably true. How stupid! (But probably true.) Maybe it just comes down to me being really not-that-bright.

That's part joke part truth. If I was smarter, I wouldn't be here AGAIN, right?

I'm tired of this story, you know? It's not that interesting. I feel like my multiple attempts at revision are failed attempts, and perhaps it's time to move on to something new.

However: something new, drastically new, isn't practical.  No new job. No absence of job. So what do I do?

(I suspect I'm going to keep running my stupid fat head into walls again and again until I pass out, or until someone removes the damn walls for me.)

Here is a more eloquent, and certainly more clever, attempt at what I'm trying to say: Want Less by Clara Chow.


13.3.15

All Hail the Marvels of Modern Medicine

Z-pacs are the shit, y'all.

I spent much of this week in a fog induced by a mystery illness that has something to do with the ear-nose-and-throat but wasn't definitively strep throat, or a sinus infection, or the flu. I was fed up by Wednesday, however, and went to the doctor. He gave me a prescription and said, "I think it's a virus but you can have this just in case you get fed up and want to try something." I was like, I'mfedupthat'swhyI'minheredude, but just in my head, because, well, manners.

Anyway. I tried to be patient for about three hours, or the length of a nap (and I NEVER nap), and then I had the damn thing filled at the local pharmacy and took the 2-pill antibiotic blast by 4 p.m. By Thursday morning it was like I was a new woman. I know you're not supposed to take antibiotics all willy-nilly but good freakin' lord, I'm glad Dr. Nonchalance gave me that script or I wouldn't be writing anything this morning.

Lucky you, reader!

Anyway. I have Conditional Good News. Conditional Good News is different than Good News because it involves the Conditional Acceptance. My review of Paper Doll Fetus was given a conditional acceptance by Calyx, so I have to make some changes to the piece based on the editors' suggestions and see if we can come to an agreement. With luck, I can do that later today and then perhaps the Conditional Acceptance will change to a Real Acceptance and then be actual Good News.

If it works out, this will be my first piece of nonfiction published in a long freakin' time, so I'm kinda stoked.

And somehow, over the past two weeks, despite a deluge of grading and meetings I've managed to submit some poems to two journals and my manuscript to a publisher, so at least my work is out there a little bit. It's never gonna get accepted if it doesn't leave my laptop, you know?

Also, this week marks the second birthday of Vampire Toddler and the TENTH birthday of Little Miss Talkalot.

I've been a mother for a decade, man. Weird, right? 'Cause who the fuck put me in charge? Biology? Bad move, biology. (Sorry, kids!)

6.3.15

Good News and a Little Rant About Poem-A-Day

This week has been strange. I met with my Monday/Wednesday classes three days in a row, kind of. That is, I HELD class three days in a row, because on Tuesday we were supposed to make up a snow day, but only 6 students showed up to my creative writing class and a whopping 3 attended my intro to the novel class.

Students must really like my classes!

And then we were snowed out yesterday by another 4 or 8 inches. And I was really happy. Because lately, work is more and more a place where I'm continually behind and unable to complete the tasks for which I'm responsible. And that's fairly demoralizing and soul-sucking.

On a more optimistic note, it's really gorgeous outside this morning: the wind is almost nonexistent, so all of yesterday's snowfall is still covering the tree branches and the sun is shining and the air is extremely fucking cold and crisp. It's lovely. 

Other good news: Fabulous Beast was a semi-finalist for the Alice James Book Award. The announcement was a good shot-in-the-arm, for I was becoming a little pessimistic about the chances of FB making it into published-book-form. Not that I'm anywhere closer to having the book published, but it's encouraging to see it acknowledged in some way.

Also, I finished writing that review of Paper Doll Fetus, which was a fun venture. I've written a couple of nonfiction pieces this year -- one for that talk I gave with A.P. at the school in the fall -- and one for our union's new member program -- that I'd like to turn into bigger, more complete essays and submit for publication. 

***

So can we talk about Poem-A-Day from The Academy of American Poets? 

I'm on their listserv, and I receive these emails and I like receiving these emails because I do find new poets of whom I was completely unaware previously . . . but good lord, those little "About This Poem" notes -- accessible only on the emails, not on the archive at poets.org -- are driving me up a fucking wall.

It's not the format of the email, or rather, the fact of the "About This Poem" notes. I recognize that The Academy of American Poets is making poetry more accessible to an everyman, a lay reader, by the inclusion of these notes and I actually agree with this approach -- yes, allow people to understand the poems a little bit more and therefore develop an appreciation for the poem, if not a love. 

Too many of these featured poets, however, take those "About This Poem" notes and fuck them up. They fuck them up by being completely and thoroughly pretentious and academic and/or deliberately elliptical or obscure -- either a subversion of The Academy's attempt at democratization with their "About This Poem" notes ("I shouldn't have to explain my poem"/"A poem says what a poem says") or self-aggrandizing ("hey-look-at-how-learned/smart/fancypants-I-am-you-guys").

*Eyeroll* Eyeroll* Eyeroll* Now I'm dizzy. I cannot fucking stand this shit:
This poem explores a Heraclitean idea of love
That's from today's poem, "A Kiss," by David Tomas Martinez, who is probably very smart and whose poem I did admire and who followed that Greek-philosophy reference above with:
showing how, in the end, we often miss some of the most mundane things about the person lost, such as a kiss.
Why muddy the waters with name dropping, when you have such a crystal clear sentence here? And then he mucks it up by ending with:
This poem is an attempt to wiggle my toes in the stream of that kiss.
Please, please don't explain your metaphors with more metaphors. Boo, dude. Boo.

I sympathize with the pressure and weight of these notes. I think I'd be paralyzed with fright at the thought -- I would WANT to say something smart, and that didn't make me appear to be a total pleb. Honestly, I don't know how successful I'd be at that. (Probably not very successful.) If I could, however, I would avoid being obscure, or circular, in my explanation, and I would avoid making what is more or less a Cliffs Notes to a poem require its own Cliffs Notes. (For you younger folk, that's my generation's print version of SparkNotes.)

Granted, Martinez's note really isn't that bad. He made one academic reference. He used some pretty language to describe his use of pretty language. He's not criminal. But today's email is the one that broke me, that made me want to write about this phenomenon. When I have so many other things to do. Because often we vent our frustrations at inopportune times and in misdirected ways, yes?

But to drive home my point, perhaps I'll leave you with a few more of these email-a-day gems:

From Cate Marvin:
This is a poem about the metaphoric value of objects as they travel from one context into another.
 Oh! Good! This totally makes me want to reread it.

From Larry Sawyer:
The final line of my poem makes reference to the pronoun ‘I,’ which might be compared to a sundial’s gnomon casting its shadow across American poetry.
Might be? Don't you know? Also . . . what?


And from Kristy Bowen, whose poem was so much better, so much more alive, than this description:
‘house of strays’ is one segment of a short series investigating the juxtaposition of both interior and exterior habitat—how physical space shapes mental space and how we live both through the subjective idea of ‘home’ and the physical manifestation of it.
*Yawn* This in no way makes me want to read the series, which is probably a lot more interesting than it sounds right here. 

To be fair, there are many, many elegant and simple "About This Poem" notes in the Poem-A-Day emails that add context and weight to the poems they accompany. It's the exceptions, however, that just irk me.

Okay. Rant over. I must drive the kiddies to school now and face more tasks I'm sorely behind in completing.

 

27.2.15

Mountains of Laundry, End-of-Week Minutia

At first I thought I hadn't really accomplished much with this week, but when I look back, I've done a little bit of everything except exercise. Well, once, I dragged my ass onto the treadmill. But I walked, because I was reading at the same time (I'm REALLY not coordinated enough to read and run at the same time), so it didn't feel like much of a workout.

I'm looking forward to all of this snow melting so I can run outside again. 

Anyway, I managed to read more of the mad Russian lady (Tsvetayeva) -- who isn't really mad, but brilliant -- I love the way you see her working out her arguments, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, in her essays (I'm on "The Poet and Time," currently).

I've also been working on the review of Paper Doll Fetus (by Cynthia Marie Hoffman), which I'll submit to Calyx later today or tomorrow for their Summer Issue (hopefully it meets their needs/specs and they like it).

And I managed to write an entire student rec (big deal, I have two more to go!) and also bang away at that poem I began two weeks ago  . . . which I suspect might be a big load of crap, so I'm going to put it away (I think) for a little while in the hopes of gaining some perspective. (It's about trying to drown out the noise of social media -- or rather, pick through the detritus of social media in hopes of finding something salvageable -- and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the references to contemporary  . . . people. But it's supposed to be good for you to work outside your comfort zone, right? Yeah, I still don't know if it's a good idea. Anyway.)

I have so much grading to do that I haven't been able to do when I'm physically, actually-at-work, that it's ridiculous, but I'm trying to keep my morning writing time sacred! As it was, I cheated and wrote that student rec one morning (it was writing, not grading, so I felt like I could justify it).

It's kind of amazing how much my own mind betrays me. While I'm in the midst of all this busyness, I started to think about promotion (it's difficult not to do so -- A.P. was just promoted to Full Professor) and then I realized I should probably present at a conference within the next two years, so I began to brainstorm possible conference presentation topics. BECAUSE I HAVE SO MUCH TIME AT MY DISPOSAL FOR EXTRACURRICULAR CRAP. 

So, that's my life in a stream of nonsense. You envy me, yes?

p.s. My basement has mountains -- literal mountains to Vampire Toddler -- of laundry in it. So household matters have not really been addressed this week. (It's amazing this place hasn't been condemned. Yet.)




20.2.15

Please Do Not Buy or Eat the Death Cumin (Or Feed it to My Baby)

This week a virus in our household kind of blew up everyone's schedules. So: no poems worked on, a little tiny bit of reading done, some really annoying online "course" requirements tackled because they were the only thing I could do with a houseful of sick kids (i.e. I didn't really have to pay attention very closely nor do anything that would result in an actual product).

AND we had a weird near-miss with Vampire Toddler last night, who is allergic to peanuts and ate some store-bought hummus with peanut-contaminated cumin in it. She had a minor reaction, just hives, but -- it was a reaction! Scary, and a reminder that we really have to go less-processed-food in consideration of Vampire Toddler's very real, very dangerous food allergy. This is going to be difficult for me, as I'm not super into organic-everything and also, sometimes, prepackaged food is a working mother's best friend.

Anyway. We'll work it out. I'm going to put a call into the store where we bought the hummus (Simply Enjoy brand, fyi) and see about reporting it to the FDA, because I'd hate for some child with a really severe allergy to eat this stuff and go into anaphylactic shock.  

I'm trying to keep from being super grumpy lately. So many people want so many things. I want them all to shut up and I want to bury myself somewhere, like in a snowdrift. Actually, that's a lie, I hate being cold. I really kinda wanna bury myself in my bed and sleep for days. My blankets and pups are warmy and lovely . . . as is sleep. And not answering work emails.

I actually received two lovely letters via email from S.P. and C.C., both of which arrived at just-the-right time and made me less inclined to seek that snowdrift/pile of blankets. Letters, actual LETTERS, and not stupid fucking texts or brief, cursory, hey-do-you-have-this-I-want/need-this-right-now emails. They made my day. Hey S.P.! Hey C.C.! I'll be writing you back . . . maybe not soonish, but I'll be writing you back.

Later, gators.