Harumph. *Grumble grumble*

April is the worst month. It should be so spectacular and fun with National Poetry Month and all, and I'm a frenetic ball of stress. Every. damn. year.

But here's a lovely poem from Gregory Orr, who I *heart*. He's a gorgeous man, a wonderful poet.

Carry on! As you were!


My Morning Reading


A poem by Ryan Black in AGNI Online.

Another poem, by Anya Silver, in my inbox thanks to Poem-A-Day through Poets.org.

Still laying out the student magazine, barely keeping up with class prep and committee work, totally and thoroughly NOT keeping up with grading, and writing scraps here and there.

I did, however, come up with an idea yesterday for having our Eastern Campus journalism students contribute to and edit the East End Elements (student magazine) blog, which is good because I REALLY NEED ANOTHER PROJECT RIGHT ABOUT NOW.

Also, my house is a shameful depository of laundry and dog hair. Everyone's fed and at least 60% clean, though. That's something, right?


On Literary Journals, Being a Student, and the Appearance of Getting Sh** Done

One of my poems was chosen for the April edition of Stirring: A Literary Collection, guest edited by Margaret Bashaar, the editor of Hyacinth Girl Press. Shamefully, maybe, I didn't know anything about this magazine until M.B. invited me to submit a few poems to the issue she was guest editing -- and I like the journal a lot. (Not just because they chose one of my poems! Although, you know, it helps.) 

I like its approach -- it's monthly, but it doesn't publish a ton of work at once. There's just enough here to read, to ruminate on, to appreciate or dismiss -- but either way, the work printed here doesn't get lost in a sea of other pieces. While I like many of the printed, perfect-bound journals out there, many of them are on my "to read" tables (that's right, I wrote tables, the plural!). I just can't manage to move through each issue quickly. But a magazine like Stirring: A Literary Collection is easily digested in a sitting -- and can lead to more reading.

For instance, I really liked Neil Aitken's poem "Babbage, Waking Beside Georgiana, Considers the Moon, 1815."  And then I read his bio and found he's the editor of the Boxcar Poetry Review, which was another magazine I knew nothing about. And then, in the current issue of Boxcar, I found this interview with Will Schutt, who wrote Westerly (another book on the "to read" tables -- particularly because he lives down the road from me, and I thought we might ask him to come to the college and speak/read to our students).

The interview is funny/not funny. Not funny in that Will Schutt is kind and writes good answers in response to the questions he's given -- and funny in that the interviewer, Peter LaBerge, is so very young and so very cute and full of enthusiasm. God, that sounds incredibly patronizing and slightly demeaning, doesn't it? I can't help, though, that his headshot makes him look like the human equivalent of my labrador retriever. He's adorable, and his questions don't help to shake that impression.

So: This is the reading I've done in the last 24 hours, which was mostly precipitated by being published in a magazine. I fear I'm becoming more and more solipsistic. Anyway, I'm making that point simply to say that if it sounds like I'm doing so much reading, that's false. I haven't had much time for anything outside of my crazy, convoluted schedule. 

Life's not too bad, though. I managed to send off an application to Stony Brook Southampton's Summer Writer's Conference on the day of the deadline -- I have to take more graduate classes to be promoted eventually, and my strategy for taking these classes in addition to working a full time job and being a mother to three children is to take the courses during the summer months, in a compressed schedule. The workshop for which I applied is a playwriting workshop led by David Adjmi, who is a fantastic writer and a very engaging, fun instructor (I took a mini-workshop with him a couple of years ago). 

I feel all right putting myself back into the student seat when it comes to playwriting -- I really know very little about the genre. But really, I've never had too much of a problem being a student -- I like being a student: I like learning, and I like guidance. With everything going on in my life I'm too distracted to be much of a self-directed learner. I do it to some small extent, but I like being given information directly. Spoonfed, I suppose. Maybe I'm just lazy. Maybe I'm a big baby.

Speaking of babies, at work I'm currently up to my eyeballs in two pet projects: The Creative Writing Festival and the first issue of the campus literary magazine, East End Elements -- which is going to be one of those printed, perfect-bound book-like issues, but will be an immense improvement over previous issues in terms of physical/visual aesthetic. It's just going to look more professional than it has in the past, and I'm proud of that. I'm not really sure it's going to read any better than previous issues -- this is still mostly student writing -- but we're including reviews of literature and interviews with two visual artists and a memoirist. Also, we are lucky enough to use two pieces from each of the visual artists, and so the cover is going to be stunning. So, you know, yay!

Hopefully the CW Festival won't be a complete disaster this year. I feel a little disjointed, organizing it from a different campus, and being physically separated from the other organizers (who remain back on the Ammerman campus, about 20 miles away). It's been a bumpy year for the festival. But I'm so excited to have Allison Seay come to read -- she's a fantastic poet and via our phone conversations I gather that she's a lovely person. Kelly Daniels has lived a crazy, full life AND is a fantastic writer (and an old friend from the Prague Summer Program). And Colum McCann seems like a good guy, based on the articles I've read, and he's our big-deal Keynote . . . so maybe their presence will make up for any mistakes in the organization.

Anyway. Vampire baby is awake and crying, and so the day must begin. I managed to babble on for quite a while here, huh? I'll probably pay for that later, when I realize there was something else I was supposed to be doing this morning. *sigh*


Good News and a Mini AWP Wrap-Up

Back in August, a self-described "reader of poetry" (and poet himself, although he didn't let me know that at first!) named Paul David Adkins contacted me through Facebook and said that he'd reviewed my chapbook for Luna Luna Magazine. I was totally flattered and very excited and checked the magazine quite frequently to see when the review would run . . . and, well, it didn't for quite a few months. I didn't totally forget about it, but I'd resigned myself to the thought that perhaps the editors of Luna Luna didn't find the review compelling enough (because of the subject matter, my little book) or that they didn't have room for it, etc. I came up with lots of reasons inside my crazy head.

And then yesterday, quite out of the blue, I found this posted to my Facebook wall.

It's a really thoughtful, generous review of my chapbook. I'm touched and flattered and happy to have my poems written about so well, and at such length. So, you know: good news.

Also, it's official: We've managed to keep Vampire Baby alive for an entire year now. Definitely good news.

In bad news, just to let you know that this stuff evens out: I am behind in my class prep and my grading, emails, committee work, submissions to magazines, writing of the verse play (although I banged out a whole five lines yesterday morning -- woohoo!) and that g.d. article/essay on poetry of witness. I have so much I have to do, and so much I WANT to do, and so little time.

I know, I know: boohoo.

AWP was lovely. So much fun. I love wandering around the book fair -- it might be my favorite part, and I get into so much trouble buying books I then have to lug home and hide from my husband, who wonders how they keep multiplying and growing in stacks around our house. I like going to the panels, too -- the ones that are geared toward teaching tend to be the most useful to me, but I like just sitting and listening to people speak about craft issues and topics I hadn't considered at any great length before. It's nice to spend three days more or less wholly devoted to writing and reading. 

Also, HGP sold out of all of my books pretty early at the book fair, so I had to contribute all of my own remaining copies when it came time for my book signing on Saturday morning. And then we sold out of all of THOSE copies. People sure like a pretty cover -- because really, who are we kidding? No one reads much of the books while perusing the tables at the book fair. We buy the stuff that looks interesting. So thanks, A.K., for designing a cool cover.

And it's always, ALWAYS nice to get away from L.I. for a little bit. Although -- according to the calendar, not so much to the weather outside -- it's supposed to become a little warmer soon, and sunnier, and that goes a hell of a long way towards making this place more tolerable.

Now on to paper grading. Yay!


More Good News -- And it's Not Just Mine!

The REALLY good news? I managed to teach the first two parts of Anna Karenina to my Intro to the Novel class yesterday without having thoroughly re-read the material. And I don't think I screwed up my students! In Kermit the Frog fashion, can I get a big "YAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY . . ."

Hello? Anyone?

ANYWAY. William Kelley Woolfitt generously published my verbose answers to his interview questions yesterday on his wonderful project, Speaking of Marvels. You can find my specific interview here, but I would recommend scrolling through the site and reading the interviews from all of the other chapbook authors. It's interesting to see inside other people's writing processes. Also, I like that he provides a sample of each poet (or fiction writer's) work at the end of each interview. ALSO, that he interviews authors of fiction chapbooks, and non-fiction chapbooks, which are a little more rare than poetry chaps. 

So it was pleasant and exciting to see that interview up. But equally exciting was to see, quite by accident, that my friend S. won the Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize

I know people who do things. And win things. By association that makes me a winner too, right? 

Right? Right? Is this thing on?

*Sigh*. A. and I are leaving tomorrow for Seattle and the AWP Conference and Bookfair. My heroic mother is staying in my home WITH ALL THREE CHILDREN AND TWO LARGE DOGS while we are off visiting the other side of the country. I still have all of my packing to do, and a number of tasks to take care of at work, and yet I'm so excited about going on this trip that I can't quite focus.

Instead, I find things like this!


Post-Reading Optimism

The reading went really well -- a lovely, sizable audience (the IOTA Poetry Series has been going on for well over a decade, and has a dedicated following), and a good opportunity to read poems outside of the context A. and I established with our "Poets on Childlessness and Parenthood" tour. Instead, we could just read poems. I read about 10 minutes from the chapbook and then 10 minutes of poems from the rest of the Fabulous Beast ms, and A. read a lovely selection from his book, Little Songs and Lyrics to Genji

Here we are in action: (HA!)

Isn't this backdrop kind of amazing?

Photograph of me and this guy's bald head courtesy of my baby sister, Lil' K.

Also, I had a snifter of Bourbon Barrel Stout. Drinking beer out of a snifter is pretentious and really shouldn't be condoned, but sometimes it has to be done. It was worth the risk of looking like an asshole. It was delicious.

Beer and poems aside, I'm amazed that I managed to get through the weekend and NOT be a complete stress case. I answered student emails while I was at my mother's house, and didn't feel resentful while doing so. I even graded some quizzes. We took the kids to a "Dinosaur Expo" which sounded like a really good idea at the time but turned out to be a kind of hell even my 5 year old son couldn't get behind, despite the animatronic dinosaurs and bouncy-houses. Too many people, period. And yet even THAT debacle didn't sour the weekend. I took the kids to the LEGO movie, too (opening weekend, 'cause I'm an idiot). All in all, I felt like it was a good balance of concentrating-on-the-kids and indulging-in-poetry-and-me-time.

AND Vampire Baby slept through the night (probably exhausted from yesterday's exodus from VA up the congested Eastern seaboard) waking only at 5 to be fed and then falling back asleep -- so I have been able to do a little reading, including this terrific essay on the vitality of poetry in The Hudson Review, which -- while exploring the nuances (or lack of nuance) of contemporary poetry -- also reviews S.P.'s excellent book, The Black Sea.

I feel optimistic about the days ahead. Hopefully it's not a foolish optimism, and I'm not setting myself up for a major freakout or meltdown mid-week. I have a lot of balls in the air still, probably too many as usual, but for now I'm happy and grateful to be a circus act.


The Spring 2014 Semester: Now Featuring Snow, and More Snow!

Yup -- still around. This semester's not quite the kick in the pants that last semester was . . . er, YET . . . but it's been keeping me busy. The elements have been conspiring to keep me from seeing my creative writing class. Since this semester began, I've seen them TWICE. And because I'll be away in Virginia this weekend for a reading Sunday night, traveling back on Monday, I'm not holding class until Wednesday. The last I saw them was LAST Wednesday. So when I DO finally meet with them, it will have been two weeks since our previous meeting. Crazy, huh?

Of course, the college will cram a whole bunch of make up dates into the last week of school, which will make grading finals absolutely maddening unless I start moving things around on my assignment schedule drastically.

Our phones and internet and intranet have been all sorts of compromised by the snow and ice, too, so I haven't had access to my computer files all week. I get to the office and I feel a little like that scene in Zoolander when they break into Maury Ballstein's office.

I'd find you a gif or a clip, but I haven't the time!

There have been some bright moments in the inclement-weather filled weeks, however. For one, I managed to apply for the grant that I was thinking about. Also, I received a letter last night from Utah State University Press that said the full-length Fabulous Beast ms placed as a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award. It's nice to have the little bit of recognition for the ms -- for the past year and a half I've sent the ms out to contests and received nothing but form letter rejections. So to have it recognized, even in a small way, is a bit of affirmation that, frankly, I needed right about now.

And now, of course, dogs and babies are stirring, so I have to go. 

Oh! But wait: if you happen to be in the area on Sunday -- and if it doesn't snow like crazy and cancel the event:

Sunday, February 9, 2014
IOTA Poetry Series

featuring Sarah Kain Gutowski and Adam Penna
the Iota Bar and Restaurant
2832 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Virginia
(two blocks from the Clarendon Metro)
6 p.m.

It'll be nice to get off the island for a while. 

And do something poetry-related.