I’ve spent the entire day at home revising poems, reading poetry and occasionally asking my fuzzy pup, Kweli, if he thinks a certain line or word sounds right. He has very discerning taste. My two Zebra Finches, Humphrey & Pip, just chirp at me whenever I speak to them.
What a lovely day it has been to stay in my house and work. Actually, this week overall has been pretty great. Two fellow poets from Murray had work published this week: Karissa Knox Sorrell & Pamela Johnson Parker. These are wonderful poems and you should read them.
I’ve been off the radar since last week when classes ended for the semester. I went down to Murray (see pictures below) for graduation and my robing ceremony and then went into work on Monday to finish grading. As of last Tuesday I’m officially on my break until the summer semester begins June 1st. Tuesday I spend some time reading and writing (I drafted out two poems). Yesterday was a rainy day, so I cleaned and wrote thank you notes. Today, more reading and writing. I’m enjoying my time off. Next week I’m headed back to Erie.
One of the poems I drafted out on Tuesday was prompted by an article by Elif Bautman called “The Bells” that appeared in The New Yorker at the end of April. This is the excerpt that caught my interest:
“Defying orders that the bronze guest be silenced forever, the people of Tobolsk outfitted it with a clapper and installed it in a local belfry. Because the bell had been defended by Tsarevitch Dimitri, and was surely fond of children, a legend arose that, if you washed the clapper and collected the water in a special container, it became an elixir for curing children’s diseases.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, the science fiction writer, was perusing the Web site Scribd last month when she came across digital copies of some books that seemed quite familiar to her. No wonder. She wrote them, including a free-for-the-taking copy of one of her most enduring novels, “The Left Hand of Darkness.”
This would all sound familiar to filmmakers and musicians who fought similar battles — with varying degrees of success — over the last decade. But to authors and their publishers in the age of Kindle, it’s new and frightening territory.
I would encourage everyone to check out the latest issue of New Madrid. I’m not plugging this journal just because it is from Murray’s MFA program and because I worked on journal. I’m very proud of where the journal is going and this issue (our theme was intelligent design) is very well done. There are a lot of wonderful pieces but here are just a few “Breasts” by Pamela Johnson Parker, Slow Fuse of the Possible: A Poet’s Psychoanalysis by Kate Daniels, Mouse by Mark Brazaitis, Small Talk by Lauren Smith, and Call it Beautiful by Scott Doyle. I’m still finishing the issue but please go to the link (listed under my links section) and check it out.
This article appeared in the the Sunday Book Review section of the New York Times:
In October, John Ashbery became the first poet to have an edition of his works released by the Library of America in his own lifetime. That honor says a number of things about the state of contemporary poetry — some good, some not so good — but perhaps the most important and disturbing question it raises is this: What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness.
What strikes me about it is it’s the same old question. When the old “greats” die, will there be anyone to replace them? I have news for poets, this isn’t just a poetry problem. I also think it is a bit narrow minded to say that just because the older generation is passing on, all poetry is doomed to mediocrity. The younger generation learns from the greats, they idolize the greats, and then they move beyond them. That’s is and always will be the cycle. I don’t think poetry is any different.
I’m sitting at a chintzy desk at the Best Western in Murray, KY. While I was pleased with myself for securing a room rate of $50 a night (thanks AAA) it is true that you get what you pay for. Two of the lamps don’t work. The cable is in and out and the shower leans towards freezing. For two nights it was fine, but if I ever come back to Murray, I’m going with Hampton Inn.
I’m finished with my thesis, except for a few revisions I have to make over the course of the next month or so. These revisions are mostly to my preface, which is fine because that was the part that gave me the most trouble. The revisions are more than manageable in a months time, which is how long I have to make them. I’ve passed. I feel good.
The defense itself was enjoyable and I felt very calm going into it. I felt like I got a lot of good feedback and that I have some things to work on as I go back to writing without the constant mentoring of my committee.
Last night, I gave a reading with the only other defender last night. It was fun and the most nerve wracking part of the day. Afterward, we went to the Faculty Club and a few of us continued on to The Apple. The Apple is the only real bar in Murray, which is a dry county, and tends to have a specific point in the evening when the patrons become a little rowdy. It was a good way to end the evening.
As is the case, when most things are over, it is bittersweet. I’m proud that I’ve finished this third degree and that I have a manuscript that I can move forward with. I look forward to writing and reading more on my own schedule and sending some work out for publication. I will miss the community that I found here in Murray and the excellent mentorship that I benefited from. I hope to keep the connections that I’ve made here.
What’s next? It seems appropriate to ponder this question in light of the new year. Keep writing, keep reading, keep sending work out and polishing up this manuscript that I have. I’m attending AWP in February and I think that will be a good place to meet people and make connections. I also plan to explore the Indianapolis writing community more now that I have time. I think this is a question I’ll come back to a lot in the next year.
I passed my thesis defense. I will graduate with my MFA in May. I’m done with school for awhile. More to come later.
We arrived back in Indy yesterday around 5:30. The drive was uneventful weather wise, which is usually the only big news this time of year. We rang in the New Year last night at a local bar with some friends and today we’re hitting the road again for the final leg of our holiday marathon. Around noon we’re heading to Murray, KY where I’ll defend my thesis tomorrow at 1:00. I’m hoping all goes well.
Updates to follow.