1. find that one list I wrote to myself on Friday about all the things I need to do. The one that has things that aren't just right in my face--the slightly further reaching things. The ones that I'll wake up remembering, in the middle of the night.
2. do the dishes.
3. have a reckoning with myself about my life.
4. finish the never-ending responding. The responding!
5. pat my pockets for all the things I'm forgetting.
6. start my fitness plan.
7. write a poem.
8. strip the wallpaper in my bedroom.
9. read Proust, leftover Proust, from that one time I read about 50 pages for my book group. Also, and on this same topic, The Tale of Genji.
10. cry a little.
11. draft a position paper on a compensation issue for the faculty at my college.
12. try not to forget any of the times I said I would talk to, chat with, or meet with a student in the next couple of days.
I was reading ProfHacker column in the Chronicle of Higher Ed today. It's kind of a cool column, some tech savvy professors trying to give help to the benighted, with tech stuff that applies to teaching, scholarship, and other educational productivity blah blzzzzzzzzz what? Right: productivity.
One of the ProfHacker posters recommended tools, some tech-related (Evernote), some not (a fancy kind of notebook I can't remember and now I can't find the post again--FRUSTRATING), some of which I explored for a minute or an hour or two while I was also "grading." Which leads me now to consider my favorite apps, in the spirit of sharing and helping, because I am all about that. Forthwith:
Apps of Glory.
App 1. Fountain pen. Yes, the fountain pen represents nothing so much as the possibility that ink could explode (or 'splode, as I like to say, in homage to the way I think Ricky Ricardo might say it in a beloved yet elusive episode of I Love Lucy) all over your bad self. But on a good day, here are two things the fountain pen will do for you: (a) dignify every motherloving word you write with ink flowing elegantly from a nib (Yes! Nib!), and (b) provoke the envy of your peers. I recommend a child's fountain pen, such as the Pelikan Pelicano Junior. It is fat, it is comfortable to hold, it is sassy.
"But is it an app?" you say.
"Why, yes," I reply. "It allows for the application of ink to paper. Also the application of attitude to any situation. What definition of 'app' are you using?"
App 2. Notebook. Someone on that ProfHacker post (gone to time, gone to the black hole of the internets, oh post of yore or this afternoon, where have you skedaddled to?) made a snide remark about the Moleskine notebook being pretentious. Yes, I know that the Moleskine is something white people love. Yes, yes, yes, go on ahead. But the Moleskine has one great thing going for it: that elastic band that keeps it shut. No, two things: the color of the paper is creamy ivory. Three things: also, the texture of the paper is extremely fine--smooth, beautiful to write on. With your fountain pen. Four things: the pocket. Trendy, pretentious, whatever. It's a damn fine notebook. I am currently filling the Reporter's Notebook with my deep, deep, complicated thoughts. I recommend that you do likewise. I like my notebooks without ruled lines, because my thoughts are deep and complicated enough that lines would constrain them. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.
"But is it an app?" you query.
"Why yes, it is," I reply. "It is an application for storing your deep, deep, complicated thoughts on creamy ivory paper of an illustrious texture, and for your receipts and other doodads in the pocket, and out of which nothing will ever be lost, because: elastic band."
App 3. Genius function on iTunes. OMG I love the Genius. Today I started with the Grandaddy cover of the Beatles "Revolution,"
and before you know it I was hearing good stuff like nobody's business. Moreover, while I was hearing a song by Iron and Wine, I thought to myself, I wonder if Rufus Wainwright will show up in this playlist. And what do you know, the very next song was "Poses."
Thank you very much for using the word "swarthy." I have not heard that word used in, like, twenty years. I would especially like to commend you on your particular pronunciation of it, with a soft "th," which gave it especial panache.
Your point, also--that this ridiculous proposed legislation is really about racial profiling, identifying "brown people, swarthy people" as suspect illegals--is very well taken.
I got caught up, or got started on the get-caught-up project.
Today is the day I received lavender shoes in the mail.
Today is the day I made sloppy joe (I don't think it needs a plural, do you?) for homeless guys. (join this project--it's a good one!).
Today's the day I realized yet again that I find watching the Jazz play in high stakes games almost unbearable. Never mind that a Chauncey Billups/D Will matchup is kind of awesomely watchable. If only I could stand to watch.
Today is the day I was home, quiet, working, with Bruiser--presentiment of summer.
Today, twopoems, neither of them much to speak of. Today, no (visible) snakes.
All observers who were horrified by the previous snakes can, as of today, settle down. We had a day with no snake sightings. Moreover, I found out all sorts of things about the historian's snake shenanigans. Apparently, the historian, whom I believe to be one of the world's most secular men, is a snake-handler. If by "snake-handler," we mean "a man who will shoo snakes back to a safer place so they won't run into the road and get run over by a car."
The way I see it, you can find this admirable, in the way that we admire the great humanitarians, because he's looking out for the creatures of the world.
On the other hand, they're snakes. Here's a bit of the colloquy between my son who is in China and myself this morning:
Walker: has that snake been crucified yet?
me: it was a bunch of garden snakes.
I think there were like six of them.
8:18 AM me: seriously
Walker: what did you do with them?
me: I have another picture of them dispersiing
Walker: it looked like one
me: they ran away
under a rock
me: I know it was creepy
they were all in a pile
Walker: call the exterminator
Walker: they were probably mating
Walker: i know, we need them out
before there are millions
8:19 AM me: they eat spiders
Walker: i really am freaked out, i don't ever want to see that picture again
i don't care they might eat me
me: okay, okay
but you know John
me: he shooed them away because he was afraid they might go into the street and get hurt
me: I kid you not.
8:20 AM Walker: what if they crawl into my room through the window well?
me: I will point this out.
Walker: at least shoo them into the horse place
that's probably where they all come from
me: it was in the front yard
john says he might try to "relocate" them and I will encourage the field to be the relocation place
Walker: those snakes will be the death of me
me: do you remember when you trapped one under a flower pot?
me: I do.
I wrote a poem about it.
Walker: did we kill it, because we should have
what did we do with it?
me: no, we released it into the wild
I wouldn't let you kill it
Walker: he is probably the root of this mess
Let me add to this bit of trans-continental discourse that the historian's snake relocation methods include putting the snake into a paper bag. Does this involve picking up the snake with his hands? Yes, yes it does. It goes without saying that the hands are bare, as in, without protective snake-proof gloves with tongs attached.
"Wow, I guess everyone's freaked out by the snakes," he says, mildly, after singing son calls to ask about the snakes.
Sir, the reason we are freaked out is that they are snakes. Do I have to spell it for you? S-N-A-K-E-S. Which word, by the way, comes from the way way back Proto-Indo-European root for "super-f***ing-uncanny limbless elongate." I looked it up.
Some things I learned at AWP, in no particular order:
1. from Michael Chabon, on the question "How do you get your ideas?": "Ideas are the easiest--hence the least interesting--aspect of the job [of the novelist]. Ideas are like the one pound of insects you [apparently] unwittingly ingest every year. They're like the air that we breathe. The hard part is sticking with the ideas when they start to lose their luster."
2. Lidia Yuknavitch, on writer's block, advises ritualizing every minute of every day. She also says she doesn't believe in writer's block. She suggests that what we call writer's block is usually something else--and that if we experience such a thing, we should ask ourselves better questions about what's going on.
3. On digital storytelling, part one: the ur-story for digital stories appears to be, "I never really had a friend--truth be told, I didn't even know what one was."
4. On digital storytelling, part two: "most of our photos are lies--'please look back into the camera and smile.'"
5. On digital storytelling, part three: at the beginning, most digital storytellers want to make "a one-t0-one correspondence between the image and the noun."
7. From Don Stinson's painting "The Necessity for Ruins": ruins are necessary.
8. From Keith Jacobshagen's landscape painting "By June the light begins to breathe": "Face it, landscape painting is a cliche. It's a long history of cliches. The best landscape painters are the ones who have done something interesting with the cliches."
Officially Day 2 of AWP was a good one. Here is the data:
I cruised the book fair for a good period of time, and bought some chapbooks for the Publication Center, collected a massive amount of witty, arty, or informational postcards, bought a broadside, also for the Publication Center, and got ideas of places to send my work.
I went to a session about digital writing. It was great. One thing that was great about it was I realized that I had, effectively, taught myself how to do everything that was in the session last year on my sabbatical. Another great thing, however, is that I learned there is an organization that will teach you how to both make digital stories/essays (i.e., video essays), and how to teach others how to do it. Thirdly, I realized that I could do this at my own institution, and easily. I could set up workshops teaching teachers how to make their own and how to teach their students to make them. And now, I have a few more resources to call upon.
[there was another panel in here that has stimulated my thinking about another thing or two, but other than demonstrating my session-going diligence and virtue, I am too tired to explain it. British blah blah critical research etc., many important outcomes will derive and the world will be a better place because I went to this panel.]
I went to the University of Utah faculty and alumni reading. Dr. Write was, it must be said, the hit of the program. She was excellent, reading the story that appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and reading it very well.
I ran into two former students of mine, both of whom went on to finish B.A.s in English and then MFAs. It was nice to think that perhaps I played a small role in their development as writers.
Rather than fleeing the social scene of the hotel bar, this time I stayed, and did some world-class schmoozing, at least in my league. That would be the Pee Wee League, but still. A girl has to start. Anyhoo: I think there may be a panel proposal for next year in the offing, I have been formally introduced hither and thither, and reconnected with some writer friends from the days of yore. The kind of thing, you know, that is supposed to go on at conferences. Whoo hoo!
AND THEN there was a reception given by the U of U people, and again, rather than fleeing, I stayed, I socialized, I reconnected. AND THEN there was dinner with friends at a French-ish place:
Our Party (charming! high spirited!): How long for a table for four (with a dozen manifestly empty tables surrounding us, and it was almost 9 p.m.)?
Our hostess: Oh (surveying her table chart) that will be 30-40 minutes, or maybe never. Let's just say: when hell freezes over. [not what she really said, that last part]
Our Party: Wha????
Our hostess: (faintly starchy) Well, don't expect to come to our happening boite with no reservation on a Friday night and get a table, hicks/rubes from out of town. [not what she really said, that last part--or any of it.]
Well, once we actually got a table, it was great.
BUT, the people, that was an exhausting day, what with all the schmoozing and the socializing and the extending myself beyond my comfort zone. And today? Today, Officially Day 3 of AWP, it was a full-on conference exhaustion situation.
I will tell you all about it later. Because it's time to pack (WOE) and go to bed (cue: sound of angels singing).
Technically, yesterday was the first day, since we (the estimable Dr. Write and I, moi, myself) arrived in Denver, and we picked up our registration stuff plus had snacks at Bubba Gump Shrimp, and I am not lying:
Waitress: Have you seen the movie Forrest Gump?
Waitress:Would you like to play Forrest Gump trivia?
Us:Will there be prizes?
Waitress:Yes. They may not be prizes that you value . . .
Now is as good a time as any to point out that there were two other esteemed persons in our party at Bubba Gump Shrimp--friend P and elder statesman poet, whom I'll identify with the initials A.G.:
Waitress:What was the name of the girl Forrest Gump was in love with?
Me:(too, too quickly) Jenny. (luckily, I did not say Jennay, but I almost did.)
A couple more trivia questions ensued. Our prize?
Waitress:Everyone raise your hands. Now, give each other a high five!
However, when the same cruel trick was played on a table nearby, we watched with interest:
A.G.:I want to see how they react when they find out what the prize is.
Ha. I made A.G. laugh. He will never remember my name, but he said, on the way out, that he would never forget that he had heard the word "Schadenfreude" uttered in Bubba Gump Shrimp. So I'll always have that.
HOWEVER: though yesterday may have involved picking up AWP materials, today was in fact the first day of the conference proper, and the people, I did it up proud. I attended and took copious notes at:
a session on prose poems
a session on putting together a book of poems
Dr. Write's session on the new domestic fiction
a tribute reading to Craig Arnold
Nikwalk's panel on coming of age in the personal essay
And then, we ate dinner at H Burger, which was swell, because they had (a) amazing fries, and (b) a good veggie burger, and (c) I was unbelievably hungry. I was the kind of hungry that, when they brought my drink, in my case a lemonade/iced tea combo, I could feel it trickling into the empty space where my hunger was raging. That's because breakfast happened when the sun was not quite up yet, and lunch was some crazy seed bar--seriously: a bar made out of seeds and some slightly sweet hold-the-seeds-together stuff--and an apple. Which, the people, tided me over, but I think we can all agree: a seed bar and an apple are not lunch. NOT lunch.
After the entirely satisfactory dining experience, we met up with some people down in the teeming hotel bar which had the immediate effect on me of sending me, with kisses to the friends I wanted to see, fleeing back to my room.
Which leads me to this point: many many sessions in a day at a conference can be good. Each one of those sessions today was rewarding in its own way, and I am pleased to have attended. However, I have learned the following life lessons:
I am exhausted.
Time to go to the book fair.
Sleep better. (I am looking for an implementation expert for this bullet point.)
After fleeing, reflecting, and resting, I went down to the keynote address by Michael Chabon. As exhausted as I was and am, that was excellent. He is hilarious. I loved it. And now, Day One is concluded, I am several poems behind on the National Poetry Month extravaganza, my eyes hurt, and it is time for bed.
Tomorrow, I leave for AWP in Denver, and the people, I am kind of excited, because I have outfits to wear, and music to listen to on the trip, and work to do--wait, am I excited about that? damn.--and people to see and stuff to learn and awesome dinners out to have. Etcetera.
Point 2: there has been enough going on here and there, hither and yon, that I (a) did not write a poem yesterday, and (b) only barely got one for today. Yesterday, at the end of a lo[insert extra 'o's here]ong day, we happened to find ourselves at the Dianne Reeves show, which is not a bad place to be, but (1) there was a winter storm happening on the way into the show, which we--I think I can speak for all of us here--had on our minds as being probably likely to continue for the return portion of the journey, and (2) the day had been lo[insert extra 'o's here]ng, and (3) what about National Poetry Month? So whilst contemplating Dianne Reeves's lovely ensemble and accessories while she was singing with great splendor, I thought I would write a poem about adornment and I scribbled notes galore in the dark without my glasses on, notes which I transcribed a little while ago.
However: those notes did not feel like becoming a poem tonight.
So instead, I wrote this. [< - that "this" is a link.]
I will be having my laptop with me--that is to say, my laptop will be companionably accompanying me, as in, my laptop insisted on coming with to Denver. So perhaps there will be further updates, poetry-wise, or maybe I will just do a little online teaching. Check back here to find out!
You know, the cruelest month, i.e., National Poetry Month. I know, I've made that joke before and probably so have a thousand other poets, but I still kind of like it. I get a charge out of it, and the people, that's not a bad thing at this point in the semester.
So, here's today's poem. I'm going to do my level best to write thirty poems this month. I haven't written one new poem since I came back to work after my sabbatical. Is that my fault? I say no. I say it's the job's fault, so take that, job! I'm writing a poem a day for a month. See if you can stop me.