Sep. 28th, 2013
Had an excellent time at Gilrein's last night, where the inimitable Bobby Gibbs put together a poetry showcase and invitational slam, and where I also drank straight Jameson Irish Whiskey after a long, vaguely frustrating day. So I was in good spirits by the time I hit the stage. I read That Old-Time Religion, which I think was a good call. If nothing else, it felt better on that stage than I ever recall it feeling, but then, that might have been the whiskey talking. Tony Brown owned the night for me, though, with his poem for Gilrein's old days, Home of the Blues. Lots of great stuff in both the showcase and the slam, including a hard-fought and well-deserved win from Oz Okoawo, a light, fun piece from Marianna Preeti, and a an absolutely devastating poem from Ana Perez. Fun, fun, fun.
Mostly just poking at the the manuscript for Why We Should Suffer For This this morning, working out in my head how the next section goes. This happens every third or fourth section, where it's in my head, but I have to let it mulch a bit to actually get to it. In any case, I'm working on Section 36 right now, of what I expect to be 48. Home stretch. I'm enjoying writing it immensely, but I'm also getting near the point where I'm ready to be done with it.
This book has been a bit emotionally draining. It commands more time and attention than anything else I've ever written, and it certainly takes away from working on anything else. It's also been weird writing about love, because -- while it's a work of fiction -- I've found myself walking through every relationship or near relationship I've ever had, picking them apart to see how they worked or, more frequently, didn't work. My friend Jeff DeRego rightly asked me, Why would you do that to yourself? I can only reply that, even though it's fiction and these are things that didn't really happen, I'm trying to cut as close to the bone emotionally as I can, and the best way to do that is to recall the emotions I felt at those times of my life as closely as possible, in order to describe and evoke them on the page. I don't necessarily recommend this course of action to anyone.
(Secret note to Robert Arroyo Jr., 15 Years Later: Fuck it. You were right.)
But still, more to go, and if it's been an exhausting journey, so far it's been worth it.
Sep. 20th, 2013
08:40 am - Manchester is For Lovers
Last night's set was a personal landmark, as I transition from the work I've done for the past 25 years and train my attention on finishing the monolithic work, Why We Should Suffer For This. To commemorate, I put together a set with representatives of about every era of my writing career, starting with the oldest poem I'll admit to having written, written in college, and ending with the first section of Suffer. It was ... more perilous than I imagined, and I finished the set emotionally drained and with a hoarse throat. But the warmth with which the set was greeted nearly moved me to tears. I'm humbled and grateful.
"Waiting For the End of the World"
"Season of the Bitch"
"My Father's Grave, July 5th, 1997"
"Protocol for Gazing at the Moon"
"My Life as Rosencrantz or Guildenstern"
"How to Grow Old Gracefully and Still Love Rock 'n' Roll"
"Know Your Rights, Redux"
"Letter To Louis, 10 Years Later"
"For Beth & Mindy"
"Why We Should Suffer for This" (Part One)
Thank you to everyone who came out, and to Slam Free or Die for inviting me to read. You're all very much in my heart this morning.
Sep. 12th, 2013
A quick guide of where you can find me -- or, if you're inclined, avoid me with alacrity -- in the near future:
Slam Free or Die
500 Commercial St.
Manchester, N.H., 03103
7 p.m. Thursday, Sept., 19, 2013
Reading a mix of old and new. And, as the name implies, there will be slammy things.
Showcase with Victor, Ashley Alafberg, Mariana Preeti, Ana Perez, Liz Heath and Tony Brown
Slam with Wil Gibson, Mckendy Fils-Aime, Kayla Wheeler, Amber Rose Johnson, Omiozele "Oz" Okoawo, Christopher Johnson, Rushelle Frazier and Beau Williams
Gilrein's: Home of the Blues
802 Main St.
Worcester, MA, 01601
8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, 2013
Just a poem or two, but come out to see an amazing and diverse collection of writers. (Lineup subject to change) Also, will probably try to get there very early to have dinner at One Love next door, if at all possible.
Annie's Book Stop
65 James St.
Worcester, MA, 01603
7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, 2013
This will be the first big reading of material from "Why We Should Suffer For This." Come out and hear what I've been holed up writing!
And that's my near future. After that, I have nothing on the books until April. Which is fine, as I'm supposed to be writing a book, not out gallivanting! So turn up!
Sep. 5th, 2013
10:59 pm - Poking My Head Out
Haven't updated this thing in nearly a month. Having one of those spells where I feel like I've been both immensely busy and have little to show for it. Been a bit consumed with the manuscript, really. It's eating up most of my attention. Been reading sections at The Outlaw Stage every Wednesday, and that's been keeping me moving. So if you want to hear it, that's where I'll be. Hope to have a first draft done by the beginning of November.
Was pleased to have four poems out in Nailed today: "The Revelation of Kate Gosselin, as Revealed to John Connor from the 'Terminator' Movies," "Four Ways of Looking at Lincoln," "Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made," and "Truths My Dealer Told Me."
Over at Radius, we've been busy making some revamps during our short hiatus, most notably, Sam Cha and Rachel McKibbens stepping up as poetry editors, Tara Betts and Heather Sommer moving into the role of contributing editors, where they'll be joined by Lauren Gordon, and Tatyana Brown becoming a regular contributor. All good stuff. We kicked off the next rotation with an opening editorial by myself, centering on Seamus Heaney's death, and a poem by the wonderful Rushelle Frazier.
Lastly, I've been a bit slow over at the Telegram's Pop Culture Notebook, probably because I've been splitting my energies between the manuscript and mastering our new computer layout program. Still, there have been a few bright spots, including thoughts on why Harry Connick Jr. is the best choice for an American Idol judge ever (although oddly, I think the version that's appearing in the paper tomorrow is better), and a piece on Miley Cyrus, Ben Affleck and the Rorschach test of popular culture.
All right. Things to do in the morning. I'll try not to wait so long to write next time.
Aug. 10th, 2013
08:30 am - Gone Fishing
Lea and I are running away to the Cape for a few days. We'll be back around mid-week, but then we'll be in and out of Cambridge to catch some of the National Poetry Slam Finals, or at least see people on the side. So we'll not be particularly available for the next week or so.
If you need to reach us, my email and/or cell phone is the best course of action, but in my experience, I have very limited reception when I'm on the Cape, so please be patient if it takes me a little while to get back to you.
Plenty of work to do when I get back, including work on the next round of Radius.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to doing as close to nothing as possible for a spell.
See you in a week!
Jul. 26th, 2013
I used to hate that Roger Daltrey song, “After the Fire.” Well, maybe hate is a strong word, but I couldn’t rectify it with great Who songs like “My Generation.” Hope I die before I get old. It kind of pisses me off that I totally get it now.
Jul. 18th, 2013
This has been a demanding week. Between the oppressive heat (my office feels like an oven right now) and demands at work (we're going live with a new layout/content management program. Which I rather like in theory and kind of hate in practice, at least until my learning curve catches up), I've not had much time to write, or even to get out and read. The latter's a shame, because I'm rather committed to debuting sections of my longer work in progress, Why We Should Suffer for This, at the Outlaw Stage. One of the goals of the Outlaw Stage is for it to be a place to try out new work, and while going in and reading long passages of fiction/poetic prose might sound out of place amid the music and performance art, I found it to be a good fit. Will endeavor to get back as often as I can.
Back when I was in college, one of the college librarians read a small stack of my poems and said, "You write rather well about, love, don't you? You seem to really understand it." I was flattered, as the compliment sounded even better in an English accent (they always do, don't they?) but the fact is, I didn't. What I was writing about in college was loneliness. It was the sort of love a young person writes about ... which is to say, the conception of love expressed by a person who doesn't know shit about love. When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I wrote prettily about love, but I wrote about it like it was a distant object, a Grecian urn in a museum.
To tell the truth, I think love (and its usual corollary, sex) is among the most difficult topics for me to write about. Most of the time, it falls into that place most writers have, the area of their selves they shield from outside view, the small piece they keep for themselves. Writing about love (and sex) makes me feel extremely vulnerable, almost embarrassed. And yet, as I've paraphrased my good friend Amélie Frank saying numerous time, a writer needs to aim for the things that scare them.
Suffer is all about love, and marriage, and how a person becomes someone who can love. And how sometimes being that person's not enough. I opted to approach it as fiction, to give myself that breathing room I needed to overcome my own weaknesses. Will it work? Beats me. So far, the reaction's been good, but I'm only maybe a third of the way through. It's been slow, hard writing. The first chunk is all about teen romance, and how for most, whatever the mythology, it's mostly an exercise in terror and guilt, punctuated by moments of bliss. The next part is largely about the wreckage of young adulthood. I'm still feeling that part out, trying to sort out that chaos. (And that time was definitely chaos for me.)
Writing this has been an interesting experience. It's re-enforced in my mind that I've only ever truly been in love with one person, and that's my wife. And it's forced me to re-evaluate the road I took getting to that place, and to admit there have been other women I could have loved along the way, had the circumstances been different, or had I allowed myself. The book is not my story, but the emotional content is real, and that's a level of vulnerability that I'm unaccustomed to, even though I've been fairly fearless for years writing about other sorts of wounds, many considerably more painful.
I think writing this thing is proving good for me, and I think the commitment to reading it at the Outlaw Stage has been a real prod to keep me moving forward. Even if it all falls apart in the end, it's been instructive.
Now if only we could do something about the goddamned heat ....
Jul. 16th, 2013
11:56 pm - The Confessional Is OPEN!
Been a while since I've done this, so here's how this works:
I've set this post to screen ALL comments. I will not unscreen those comments, nor will I respond to them. That said, you are welcome to post anonymously, if you want.
I will not reprint anything here elsewhere, but I MAY use material here as inspiration for a poem or work of fiction, with all the serial numbers filed off, of course. (The reason I do this is to help shake things loose for poems, so please forgive a LITTLE poetic license/thievery.)
Tell me something you want to say to someone, but can't.
Jul. 14th, 2013
11:33 pm - While I'm On the Subject
My poem for Trayvon Martin, Fashion, is up now on New Verse News. I'm terribly honored that they put it up so quickly.
Along the same lines, I want to urge anyone who hasn't read Danez Smith's Hurt: Suite for Trayvon and too many more, which we published on Radius a while back.
I lived briefly in Florida when I was a child, and quickly came to the conclusion that it is an awful place run by awful people. I despise it more than I despise anywhere else I've ever been, and yes, I've been to Texas, the Deep South and the Middle East (all places I've found things to love and admire, actually.) There is something seriously broken in Florida, and the George Zimmerman verdict and the ridiculous application of the Stand Your Ground Law is just the latest manifestation. That isn't to say that this miscarriage of justice couldn't happen anywhere, just noting that I have a distinct disdain for Florida.
Don't get me wrong: I understand how difficult it is to reach a guilty verdict in a murder trial. In the few primary documents I've seen regarding my father's murder, it's clear that the charge was dropped to 2nd degree murder because of the murkiness of the circumstances. Thus, I didn't blink when the manslaughter charge was introduced as a possibility. Giving Zimmerman every benefit of the doubt -- and Lord knows he didn't give Trayvon Martin that -- and assuming everything went down the way the defense said it then, then manslaughter would be a completely appropriate charge.
But "not guilty." No. No, I'm sorry. No matter how broadly the state's idiotic Stand Your Ground law is interpreted, that is among the biggest miscarriages of justice I can recall.
Here are the undisputed facts: George Zimmerman saw a "suspicious looking person" and called 911. 911 told him they didn't need him to follow the boy, which any reasonable person would have interpreted as a polite "stay out of the way." Zimmerman, armed, disregarded that suggestion and followed the unarmed teenage boy, whom he was larger than. The teenage boy had done nothing wrong. He was simply walking from the convenience store, where he bought Skittles and Snapple, to his father's home.
Here's the only ambiguity: either the boy, realizing he's being stalked, confronted his stalker or Zimmerman confronted the boy. Neither cast Zimmerman in a good light.
Back to facts no one is disputing: They fought. The unarmed boy defeated the large man stalking him. The large man -- either out of malice or panic -- pulled out his gun and shot the teenage boy.
There are enough subtleties to merit the manslaughter charge, but not guilty? What are we to conclude from this verdict? That it's perfectly acceptable to stalk and kill teenagers in the state of Florida? Or is it only black teenagers that can be legally hunted in that awful place? And what about the other 20-something states that have similar laws? Can you legally hunt and kill teenagers and/or persons of color in them? Having established this precedent, it seems only right that state governments clarify which people we can and can't stalk and kill. Because judging from some of the comments on news articles, there are a lot of sick people out there who've obviously been waiting a long time for this moment.
I'm being facetious, but this is a travesty on every level, and a black mark on our entire democracy and justice system. It's been a long time since I've felt this ashamed for my country.
Edited to correct small factual discrepancies and clarify bias.