Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Recently two publications arrived in the mail that include my poems. Up The River is a brand-new publication of Albany Poets, and includes a good variety of work from around the region, as well as photos by local artists. Its debut was delayed by staff issues, but the quality of the first issue proves it was worth the wait. Perfect bound and glossy covered, I look forward to many more issues, and perhaps even submitting some photos from my days as a reporter in Newburgh. Even with the crappy little camera I used, I think I got a few nice shots that might be usable.
A Slant of Light is a new anthology published in September by Codhill Press, and features a cross- section of poems by Hudson Valley women. Previous anthologies include Riverine and Waterwrites, both featuring the work of Hudson Valley writers. A Slant... is a smart, compact volume, priced at $20.00. The price is a little high for my sensibilities, but I surely am out of touch when it comes to the cost of ink and paper in the real world. None of the poets included received any kind of payment for their work, but the exposure is hoped to expand interest in our poetry, and in Hudson Valley poets in general.
I am always disappointed when a long-awaited publication comes out, for a couple of strange reasons. Looking at my own work again after months, sometimes years, after I've submitted it, I'm always appalled. Often the poem has undergone several revisions since I last saw it in print, and seeing it in whatever foreign typeface the publishers choose fools me into seeing it at first as not my own, but someone else's. And, being the critical bitch that I am, I immediately start picking it apart.
For many years I was not a fan of the revision process. I would just go on to another poem, sometimes with a similar subject, but often just abandoning the notion. I'm still not big on repeating myself thematically. The three or four poems I've come up with concerning 9/11 are an exception, and even then, each was inspired at a different time and under different circumstances, usually an anniversary. As I got older, and decided to begin applying what I'd learned in college to my real life writing, I began to revise, while still retaining hard copies of earlier drafts. Composing on computers makes this impossible, and it's one of the reasons I still write the first draft by hand, usually on yellow legal paper.
The other problem is something I'm not particularly proud of, but feel I should mention nonetheless. Because I am not the editor of these volumes, obviously I'm not the one who makes the final selections. I always see poems I would have preferred had been left out. Of course I have my favorite poets; everyone does. I also have my least-favorite poets. How editors make their final choices depends on a number of factors, only one of which is how good or accomplished the poet is. Sometimes I'm not so thrilled to be included in the same volume as some of my least favorite poets. But it is not my call. I get over it.
In fact, perhaps some of them are not thrilled to be in the same volume as I am.
And I often kick around the idea of starting my own publication, but then I remember how much work it involves. Then I shut up.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Sunday, June 30, 2013
New dad and longtime Albany Poets leader, "El Presidente" Thom Job, recently asked a few of us old timers on the Hudson Valley poetry scene for our lists of five open mics from the past that are no longer with us, but that we miss. Here's what I came up with:
Number One has to be the QE2 [in Albany], and the late, great Tom Natell, darting back and forth between the mic and the list, cramming in announcements about other events between readers. He kept everything going at a breakneck pace, yet the readers were honored and supported. I dare say it's almost the perfect format for a reading. I caught it at the tail end of its long run, and often joke that the $7K I spent on grad school would have been better spent on Rolling Rocks at the Q on open mic nights...
Number Two would have to be the Tinker Street Cafe' in Woodstock, hosted for years by Dean Shambach. What a scene!! Poets on the makeshift stage pontificating before a "velvet Elvis" towel thumbtacked to the wall, non-poets yelling expletive-heavy reviews from the bar.... It was an amazing experience, and I always give myself credit for having read there despite my youth and shyness (at the time!)...
Number Three is Bob Wright's version of the Woodstock Poetry Society, a monthly open mic then held in the community center. Bob ruled with an iron fist, but the room was always packed, everyone got their five minutes of Woodstock fame, and no one commandeered the mic for their own selfish purposes!
Uneven but always an adventure, Philip Levine's Monday night series at the Colony Cafe' was for years a dependable place to hobnob with fellow Ulster County poets and other sordid types. Philip is indulgent to a fault, and anyone with $3 to hand his wonderful mother Betty at the door could get up and do their thing-- truly the spirit of Woodstock incarnate!
Unaccustomed as I am to blowing my own horn, I have to admit to sometimes missing my own annual open mic in Kingston, the Sylvia Plath Bake-Off. Held at various locations throughout the city, including the Unitarian church and the defunct Flying Saucer uptown, I liked it best when fifty-plus poets, singers, dancers and performers crammed into the AIR Studio in midtown. Jim Marzano was our gracious host. During the AIR years, the Bake-Off expanded to included an actual baked goods competition as well as an open mic! I will forever have raisin bread nooses and marzipan embryos dancing, dancing in my brain>
OK, so the bit about blowing my own horn is a lot of crap, but besides that.... Can any of you add to this list? Question my choices? Leave me a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear more...
Saturday, June 29, 2013
I was kindly invited to participate in a Cicada Celebration here in Kingston, NY by the venerable Mikhail Horowitz, comic poet extraordinaire. This was my contribution to the evening's festivities:
Red-eyed, you pass the woods near the bridge,
head home to the man you'll probably spend
the rest of your life with.
It took years to come around to this,
years for you to see his voice,
to be silent, let your future's next sound
reach your translucent ears.
Boomerang lovers, cicadas return
from their long dirt nap,
bleary buzz alerting the media
to their impending orgy,
crackling hum like your Long Island
high tension lines, green summer evenings
cruising the Parkways, stalking the
wild wine and cheese.
At seventeen, weekends an eternity,
there was that one you looked for
fifth period A-days, the blonde
with the John Denver glasses
or the red-headed bass player,
sometimes the chorus teacher himself.
You never had a chance. Electric
lattice framed the stars that
rivetted the night in place, and past that--
Cicadas, bumper to bumper on the branches,
don't waste a moment of their brief romantic lives.
They know who knows what seventeen summers
more might bring, what one small slap on
the snooze button could cost, how summer's
lease expires without mercy.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Above is from the 2013 edition of the Albany Wordfest open mic in April. Beside me are Albany's Poetry Diva, Mary Panza, and my brother and fellow poet Mike Jurkovic.
Spring has sprung for sure, and with it, a few invites to read in the Hudson Valley. Since I've cut way back on actually attending open mics, it will be a treat to return to these venues. I have yet to visit the College of Poetry (really more a state of mind than an actual edifice) in their new digs in Sugar Loaf, so looking forward to that. Only heard my brother Mike Jurkovic read a couple months ago in Poughkeepsie, but skipped the open mic. We'll see how the season rolls. Drop me a line if you need directions, etc. Would be nice to see you again.
*June 1- "Poetry as Memoir" workshop, 10a-12noon, College of Poetry, Sugar Loaf, NY
*June 3- Feature at Harmony, 8p, Woodstock, NY, with Open Mic
*June 14- Feature at Mezzaluna, 7p, Saugerties, NY, with Open Mic
*June 20- Feature at Adriance Library, 7p, Poughkeepsie, NY, with Open Mic
*July 13- Feature at Woodstock Poetry Society, 2p, Woodstock, NY
Saturday, February 9, 2013
I am behind, as I always am, in my blog updates, with several good reasons. My annual Xmas bronchitis started a week before, and as of this writing I am still not feeling 100%. though many days I am close to 98. No decorations, minimal celebration. I let most of the season slide away, a sort of present to myself. We stayed home to watch the Times Square ball drop online, on a choppy live feed, and then I crawled into bed, hoping again to sleep through the night.
Perhaps I need more probiotics in my life. Exercise has certainly been lacking, but with last night's snowfall, I am determined to help out Nanook as we at least dig out the cars and let the City of Kings take care of the streets.
Another reason for being behind on a poetry blog would be a lack of poetry news. Now, this isn't entirely true, since in the last months of 2012, I came out with two new chapbooks, albeit compiled from old material. I did a reading in November with Rebecca Schumejda and threw together a collection of Kingston poems I've written over the years (far more than I would have guessed or am willing to admit!), called Kingston Is Burning. On January 2nd, Moses Parts the Tulips made its debut in Saratoga Springs, where I was a feature at Carol Graser's Caffe' Lena series along with Tess Lecuyer. The Albany book was lovingly crafted by Dan Wilcox and published under his APD Press, and features a gorgeous cover by artist/poet Kristen Day. I am very pleased with both, and am satisfied that both these groups of poems, when gathered up together, have a lot to say about the cities they were inspired by, and how I have (hopefully) changed over the years.
I completed manuscript of new poems in November, horse poems, and submitted it to a contest sponsored by the Center for Book Arts in NYC. Once that comes back home, as I suspect it will, I will look for a home for it elsewhere or publish it myself, perhaps after trying to place some of the individual poems in some of the thousands of literary magazines that this Depression is inspiring. Otherwise, much of my energy these days has been devoted to work on a novel.
I began the first draft of this manuscript almost four years ago, but abandoned it after perhaps six months. Life got in the way as it does, and poetry seems to fit in where extended work on prose doesn't. I picked it up again about a year ago, anxious to lose myself in a long, deep project. I was surprised at how much better it was than I had remembered. Granted, it's still not very good as a long piece of prose, in my estimation. I am learning about the novel writing process, structure, etc. by experimenting on this poor beast of a book. Perhaps, as Truman Capote is supposed to have suggested, I will deep-six it on completion and go on to another project. But for the moment, it serves my need to create pretty perfectly.
I am on the second draft now, which I chose to do in long hand, in a thick spiral notebook. The first draft was typed completely on computer. I am part of a small cadre of prose writers who meet once a month to go over chapters of each others' work and offer objective feedback. I have the Gotham Writers Workshop handbook and hope to attend a one-day session there this spring. In the meantime, I am learning about how characters take on a life of their own, how to cut what doesn't move the story forward and rereading some of the authors who inspired me to love literature in the first place: Toole, Joyce, Miller.
And since I have in recent months cut down to almost nothing the number of open poetry mics I attend, I feel no pressure at all to 'come up' with something new on a regular basis. Poems will come as they will. Reading the pretentious introduction to a book of photos of Frida Kahlo inspired me to go it one better, and I came up with a poem in the voice of a lover spending the afternoon with her. Hearing Rebecca again in early January at the Colony Cafe' reading as part of a fundraiser for the mighty Home Planet News drove me to jot down a few loosely associated notes that became a rough draft which I have since misplaced, without much regret. Sometimes if you don't follow up on the thread of a progress of thoughts that you hope will become a poem, it all unravels on the page and in your mind. It might still become something, but not what it could have been. Or so we will always believe.
I started a new, full-time job this week. It doesn't pay a princessly sum, but it will be regular, so perhaps I can get my financial affairs in better order. I don't know if a more regular schedule will help or hinder the creative process when it comes to my writing. I do know you are responsible to make a date with the Muse. Don't spend your life waiting for the bitch to call. Today is a snow day. The Northeast got dumped on again. That does happen in the winter. I am attempting homemade cresent rolls, which at this rate should be ready for dinner. The third draft of the novel will bring me back to the keyboard, and my notes. We will see what happens.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I have a friend who this past October attended his second Dodge Poetry Festival, now held in Newark, NJ. He was thrilled by the experience, the easy access to poets, the comradery of other poetry lovers, even a large sales tent dedicated to poetry books, CDs and paraphenalia. No matter how many anecdotes I and other veterans of the Waterloo Village editions of the festival relate, he still insists he had a good time. I, however, can't help but feel that the Dodge as I knew it is gone forever, and that the Newark festival, aspire as it might, cannot hope to equal that event. In fact, I almost feel if another edition is held, a new name should be attached to it.
There were of course flaws with the old location in Stanhope, NJ, serious flaws. The Village itself, at one time a touristy collection of antique buildings arranged to emulate a community of bygone times (appropriate perhaps for what many are schooled to believe is a dying art), went bankrupt some years ago, and the property through special arrangement was opened only for the Festival, every other year, or so is my understanding. Therefore, necessary maintenance to the site wasn't being done. There were plumbing issues. Parking could be hazardous in stormy weather, and in my memory, it rained every time I went to the Dodge.
But these physical problems were always outshone by the tremendous gift of the Brigadoonish collection of poets, poetry lovers and lovers of poets who assembled there. I remember hearing Lucille Clifton read and speak about her work in the chapel. Open mics, always a mixed bag, benefited from the quirky atmosphere of the Mill. Small, white tents by the lake served as intimate spaces for mid-level, sometimes even non-academic poets to read in. Then there was the Big Tent. A sort of serene circus atmosphere reigned, colored spotlights and a brilliant transparency of the familiar, "Dodge Poetry Festival" logo were projected onto the curtains behind readers. Cranes with cameras swooped over our heads, like at the Oscars, and the resulting videos, many of which can still be seen on YouTube, were appropriately dramatic, and excelled at capturing the mood of each reader and day.
What other facility combines the smell of mud and straw with the magic of Stanley Kunitz transporting us up to that rooftop he straddled in 1910, waiting for his first view of Halley's Comet? It was grand, it was open, you were free to come and go, but mostly we stayed. We got our "fix" of first-class poets, often reading work that hadn't been published yet, or work you'd come to know by heart, but never thought you'd be lucky enough to hear straight from the poet's mouth. The main theatre at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, now the central performance area for the Dodge, is stunning in its own right. I still have a lousy snapshot of the magnificent chandelier that hangs there like a glittering molecule. But it was not my Dodge.
There were no strolls in the grass, bumping into Sharon Olds or Chris Abani on their way to lunch. There was no light rain, mottled skies still bright with the promise of Galway Kinnell or Billy Collins. No trees, no birds darting over our heads, enjoying the music of words, too. Just not the Dodge. Not my Dodge, the festival I lived for and loved for fifteen some-odd years.
I wish it well. Even the former proprietors of the Book Tent, Borders, have fallen by the wayside in these difficult times for literature, times when all of the arts need to reinvent themselves and how they reach their audiences. Any festival dedicated to that most maligned of arts that can manage to maintain even a hint of its former glory is to be commended. But, don't call it the Dodge. It's something. It's a grand time surely, if you can forget the forest from which it sprung.