“We have conversations most nights, Sylvia Plath and me!”
― Avijeet Das
Portland is weird. That's what they kept telling us. On signs, On bumper stickers, and there actually is something weird about about being told over and over without asking. It's kind of like Donald Trump saying one of the many things her repeats emphatically without any foundation and no one asked. It makes you a little specious.
I believe I brought home a cold from Portland. I have suffered through an upper respiratory thing that kept reoccurring in January and February. This feels just like it did and I am going to blame it on being among some 13,000 to 14,000 writers, or other miscellaneous people I came in contact with. It's the runny nose, drainage, cough crap that hates me and I hate it. I will not consider this among the SWAG that I brought home.
I have chiropractor tonight and I am going to stop there on the way home before urgent care.
I feel like I have a lot more to say about Portland, but I will save it for later. I'm back, I'm alive, I'm sick.
Two very thoughtful gifts from my wife, Cathy. I now have both volumes of the Letters of Sylvia Plath.
Going into the holiday was kind of rocky as I was ill between Thursday and basically Sunday and part of Monday. My eyes hurt too much to even read so I felt like those were days of waste. But, I'm back and ready to meet life head on.
This July we made a short trip to Chicago. Focus was on Lake Michigan and the beaches. My granddaughter wanted to go see what a beach was all about. She's nearly four and she would come over and play in the back yard occasionally in areas where the grass was sparse or non-existent. This would become her beach. Oh, the imagination of children.
It was also an opportunity to take myself out of the normal routine, open my minds and I admit I did some writing but this past month was a period of struggle for my writing. I had to discipline myself to write even if it wasn't for publication. Even if what was coming out left something to be desired. So, I wrote in spite of everything.
We had some rain and overcast skies part of the time, but regardless, the sky and water all came together at a seam in the distance and this expanse did give rise to a number of ideas for projects going forward.
I can't exactly say that I returned refreshed and relaxed, but I came back transformed in some capacity. I'm still to define in my own mind how that is, a week later.
AWP 18 in Tampa is History. The thing about AWP is there are always expectation, there is always too little time, there are people you are excited to see, and people your are disappointed that did not come or who did and you were unable to meet up with, bones & muscles that ache and moments of serendipity.
I went with a lame knee tat ad been swollen and painful beyond imagination on the Friday before I left Wednesday morning. Monday, I saw my Doctor and she gave me a cortisone shot and a blister pack of steroids to take daily in decreasing order. I survived and per my fitness band, recorded 35,990 steps over the four days. They were not pain free, but tolerable.
When it comes to counting memories, I don't think I will be able to erase the steps, but there will be others that will be good ones.
As for serendipity, the keynote address by George Saunders comes to mind. I was not planning to go to it. It followed a Writers to Writers reception and a last minute decision to go was made and I accompanied one of the mentee alumni from my mentee class to the event and it was both enlightening and humorous. I picked up is novel Lincoln in the Bardo.
I ran into Maryfrances Wagner (from my home town). There was Mary Biddinger from Akron Press (were poetry not only lives but thrives), Diane Zinna who is director of the Writers to Writers program, and Ken Waldman, my mentor. Ken and I did an hour at the W2W booth answering questions from persons interested in the program. I purposely attended an off site reading just to ear Shaindel Beers read,
There were people who I felt like I knew, but actually met for the first time - All three of these are poets I adore - Heather Derr-Smith (we tried to meet up last year in DC but it didn't work), Maggie Smith, who signed her book Good Bones, which I read to my mother on her deathbed, and Rachel Mennies, who is writing some of the most powerful poetry these days. She also happens to be the mommy of a Twitter famous dog (at least among poets and writers).
There were too many to name at the Writer to Writer Reception, but I was able to meet up with Michelle McAdams and Erin Robertson from my mentee session.
Best panel I attended was on Writing Confessional Poetry. Rachel Mennies, Maggie Smith, Jericho Brown, and someone else whose name escapes me were the panel. Honest to God, Brown is crazy funny. I have not seen him in a long time, I recall him being funny, but not to this degree.
As usual the swag was fun. Some of it is Pictured at the top.
Oh, and there was my Sylvia Plath moment.....
It’s really October. It’s so hard to believe that we are starting the last quarter of the year 2017. How did this happen? I know we are there because besides the calendar the baseball season is moving into fall ball and then after the World Series, the baseball blues will be in full swing. Already I feel them tugging like a tide going back to sea, pulling a blanket back off the shoreline, exposing the beach.
This week I will be fortunate enough to begin a mentoring period with a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and author of 4 books. The objective is fearless and impactful poetry on my part. It sounds lofty I know, but I believe the right help is on the way.
These times are quite raw. The devastation of hurricanes, people’s lives upended and cast in uncertainty. Last night, a mass shooting in Vegas with at least 58 dead and those injured numbering 515 persons, the largest mass shooting of modern times in our country. The question is sometime asked, “Who needs poetry?” At times like these the answer is a simple, “We do!”
When we don’t have answers to life challenges, both good and bad, sometimes we just need to ask the right questions. Poetry can help us process these things. It may not solve them, but helps us find perspective.
Residency with the Dogs
Right now there is an underlying roll of thunder that continues to repeat itself accompanied by a steady downpour. Meaning no disrespect to those struggling in the flood waters from Hurricane Harvey, what is happening here is rather tranquil.
I am dog sitting for my son and when I do this for any extended period of time, I generally utilize it as though it were a mini writing residence. I read and I write and do some research (writing related) talking out loud to myself (often referred in the mental health field as responding to internal stimuli) as I read drafts, poems by other people or just think aloud. The dogs have not called the crisis line to have me picked up so all is good.
Another thing that I am doing is reading poems written as part of a workshop group of some alumni of the Spring 2017 Writer to Writer mentoring program sponsored by AWP. This is not a function of the program specifically but rather something one of the mentees from our program put together for fellow mentees who wished to participate. Once a W2W person, always a W2W person.
So, no TV, no (or minimal distractions) as I still have social media and sell phone. My wife has called upon me to do an errand or two, but for the most part, take care of the dogs and focus writing/related matters. Probably will work in a couple of submissions. This means I am somewhat less informed on the news. I have looked at a few news popups on my laptop or phone. I mean if President Trump were to resign or impeachment proceedings begin, I would have to know so I could go get a bottle of win and celebrate. Until them, you know what I'm doing...
Michael Allyn Wells - notes & musings