Meet our new kitten, Ursula! We brought her home from the SPCA yesterday and she’s charming everyone in the house (except our other cats, who are scared to death of her tiny rambunctious self). I thought of titling this post Cranky Poet Goes Soft, because that’s basically the mood around here, although I can’t entirely shake a little holiday anxiety. So much to do, as well as paradoxically worrying that I won’t find time to kick back–but at least I’m reading up a storm, catching up on poetry books I haven’t had time for. I’m hoping to post on the books I read in 2018 around the New Year. I’m also prepping like mad for the new term, which starts Jan. 7th; I have to get everything organized early because we decided to go to New Orleans for a few days right beforehand. The kids have never seen the city, and for me it’s been about 20 years, so we’ll just walk around, eat well, hear some jazz. Traveling is one of the few things that makes me really put work away and we realized we were all craving the break.
Another bit of good news: I’ll be seeing Portugal for the first time in July! I’m on a panel just accepted to the 2019 International MLA, held in Lisbon, so Chris and I will go together and extend the adventure by at least a few days. The panel concerns poetry and physics, and I’ll be talking about Samiya Bashir’s Field Theories; two of the other panelists are people I love hanging out with, my former student Max Chapnick and another dear colleague in the poet-scholar biz, Cynthia Hogue. I will have to write that paper (!), but that’s too far off to worry about, so I’m just happy to have a very cool trip to look forward to.
Other luck at the hinge of the year, as light finally considers returning: Flock has published two of my poems in its new “Vanishing Point” issue, which you can read online for free through Dec. 25th. “List from John Robinson, 1826” was one of their Pushcart nominees, which moves me for all kinds of reasons–it’s a few years old and was inspired by the history of a group of enslaved people at my home institution. You can see the actual document, which is far more powerful than my poetic response to it, here.
And my copy of Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle, edited by Marilyn Taylor and James Roberts, just arrived–my poem “Return Path” is in its pages, as well as gorgeous work by Ned Balbo, Amy Lemmon, Jane Satterfield, Kathrine Varnes, and many others. I’ll close this post with one of my favorites, “Beach of Edges” by Annie Finch (photographed with one of the shells I keep in my office, although Ursula is doing her best to smash them, crash by fascinating crash). I also love the quote from Annie on the back of the collection: “Based in communal dance rather than individual song, spiraling back repeatedly to the same refrains, often moving from obsession to acceptance through the simple movements of repetition, perhaps the villanelle teaches us something about sharing and returning, integrating, and learning to let go: good lessons for our time.” That feels uncannily right about my own few successful ventures into the form–most villanelles don’t quite fly unless you’re willing to participate in that integration, even if it’s painful.
I’m still most dazzled with happiness to have placed my next poetry ms with Tinderbox Editions, but the smaller pleasures are nevertheless ratcheting up the general shine. Here’s wishing you the light and luck you most desire and a peaceful holiday, with kittens.
Writing from both sides of the brain
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I imbibe words and consume past minds. As a result, I often awake next to strange sentences and forgotten meanings.
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