Poets, patios, frenemies, and the future

Yesterday my old pal Gwyn McVay wrote that she’d read “New Breast” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.! What an honor! That poem gets around. The occasion was a group reading from a bunch of East Coast folks in the Letters to the World anthology. I’d love to get a group of Gulf Coast/Southeast readers together. If you’re interested, let’s set up one in Atlanta or maybe Jacksonville (semi-central points). There are enough of us to give a great reading.

I’ve been tweaking the last couple of poems in the back of This Pagan Heaven. If it indeed comes out this May, I’ll be able to hit the road for some readings. If not May, then soon. I’ll probably have books in time for West Chester for those who have asked. I’m looking for independent bookstore and college/university readings within reasonable (8-12 hours) driving distance from Atlanta. I’m hoping May will be wide open, with weekends mostly free this summer.

Meanwhile, the end of spring semester is upon us, along with all that entails… Regents Essay Exam grading, various conferences, teaching portfolios, etc. This year, it seems that teaching portfolios were due in between the two weekends of comp exams. This led to extraordinarily high freakout levels within the cohort. Fortunately, I didn’t have comps this semester. I felt so bad for everyone taking comps this time around. Who needs the extra stress?

Last week was all eaten up with meetings. Meetings with the new university president, the provost, and all the deans. Meetings with a bunch of student organization leaders and the new university president. Departmental professionalization meetings (which hardly any creative writing grad students attended). Meetings with students who see the gradebook on the wall. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

Here is how some meetings go. People say, “Just what exactly does a doctoral student in creative writing do?” The answer: “I study literature, teach writing, and I also write and publish [both academic and creative work].” The better answer, one I’ve read before in a couple of places: “My book is called X and it’s about Y. [big smile] What’s your book about?”

Readings: Kevin Young rocked the house at the last Poetry at Tech reading. His poems about boudin, giving away his dead father’s dogs, and “Crowning” were the strongest pieces that night. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Felton Eady for the first time–we had a good time at Tom Lux’s party.

I love Tom’s balcony patio. That’s what it is–both balcony and patio. Nothing beats sitting under the night sky, staring at the “Eiffel Tower” blazing atop the IBM building, sipping a glass of good wine and talking with other poets not about Po-Biz. One thing Atlanta suffers from is entirely too much attention to Po-Biz. Nothing is Po-Bizzier than “Are you going to Tom’s after?”, but nothing is less Po-Bizzy than his little terrace full of plants and good conversation. Maritza and I switched to Spanish, which made me feel right at home. I’m looking forward to having some poets over soon–to drink wine, scratch the dog, play guitar, maybe read something, talk, relax.

Facebook has been a trip. I’m in touch with all my poet-pals from West Chester and WOM-PO and the Crew, as well as many of my own students (some of whom are decent writers!), old CNN folks, and now my junior-high English teachers. There’s something more immediate about FB than e-mail; it’s ideal for immediate social interaction that the miles would otherwise prohibit (“Come to my reading via webcam!” “Look what the dog did!” “See my new flowers?”). The thing about FB is that you find out who your real friends are really quickly.

Tending my own garden: I’ve got a few projects cooking–a memoir class,  a piece on Marilyn Hacker for a big project West Chester and Mezzo Cammin are doing, pushing the “new” book, working on the “current” new book/dissertation, teaching remedial English this summer, reading for comps. I have a sense that all these years of hard work are about to pay off with the life I want to live, a life I once did live in a more basic way and in a different context.

At home, we eagerly await Mami’s first visit. Mami is an island of sanity in a world of stupidity. She’ll be here for a couple of weeks and I can hardly wait. Mi cocina es su cocina. I know who’s really in charge. Meanwhile, La R. is working herself sick, as usual, and more so now that her mom’s coming to visit. Everything has to be perfect. I wish more than anything that she could find one decent job worthy of her considerable talents.

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