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...
April 1st it is, and I have taken on the poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Month. I've got off to a good start, completing my 1st poem by mid-day. The task of a poem a day for 30 days is no small task. It's easy to get discouraged when you aren't getting quite what you want out of the piece you've been working on for several hours and throw everything up in the air and utter a choice word or two. I've don that, so I know. Thinking back over the years I've attempted this I believe only one have I actually finished with 30 or more. Sometimes I've given up mid way though or once I think I ended with 27 or 28. Anyway, I have every intention in completing the challenge this year.
On another note, Marie Howe's Magdalene came out on the 28th & my copy arrived yesterday and I finished today. Magnificent work by Howe, though I've read another book by her that I loved. I will say, she overdid herself with this one. I will be writing a review of it soon.
Saturday evening and I'm resting my tired legs from 4 days of AWP Conference in Washington D.C. Tomorrow, it's back home with new reading material as well as tons of information to process.
Additionally, I was accepted into the AWP Writer 2 Writer Mentoring Program. Above I am standing with Diane Zinna who directs the innovative program that has to be one of the most exciting member services available.
I am matched with a mentor Ken Waldman for the Spring session. There are two sessions each year - and so far about 200 writers have been through the program. I applied for the program 6 different sessions and finally was matched.
On the final day I was able to meet Shaindel Beers, author of two poetry collections and one of my favorite poets. After reading both her books and interacting with her for several years no on social media it was cool to connect.
One of the most fascinating panels I attended was the Manifesto Project. I also picked up a copy of the Manifesto Project published by Akron University Press. I'm sure I will have more to say about this work in the near future.
Read an interesting New Yorker article - Emily Dickinson's Singular Scrap Poetry. Apparently Dickinson scrawled lines on must anything she could; envelopes, chocolate wrappers.
Sometimes I kick myself for having drafts and snippets of writing less than organized. I scramble to assemble it better, but never satisfied. Wondering how others organize their writing... looking for more simplification. Any Thoughts?
Michael Allyn Wells - notes & musings