Monday, February 6, 2017

Process to Text: Janet Hamill, Cheryl A. Rice and Anton Yakovlev


   On March 2, 2017, I'll be reading at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY with two amazing poets, in a series curated by Anne Gorrick and  Melanie Klein entitled, "Process to Text."  The reading begins at 7:00 pm, and will be held in the Washington Art Gallery on campus. Here are the details on my co-features:

JANET HAMILL is the author of seven books of poetry and short fiction: Troublante, The Temple, Nostalgia of the Infinite, Lost Ceilings, Body of Water, Tales from the Eternal Café and Knock. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the William Carlos Williams Prize and Tales from the Eternal Café, was named one of the “Best Books of 2014” by Publishers Weekly. Her most recent book Knock, (Spuyten Duyvil Press, Brooklyn, NY, 2016) is a surreal trip book written in the form of 72 pantoums. In addition to writing, Janet performs with the band Lost Ceilings. Together they have released two CD’s of poetry and music– Flying Nowhere and Genie of the Alphabet. She’s taught at Naropa University and New England College, where she received her MFA. At present she is a senior artist advisor at the Seligmann Center in Sugar Loaf, NY where she co-directs Megaphone Megaphone– a monthly series of workshops, readings and presentations focusing on surrealism’s literary origins, its predecessor and legacy.

 ANTON YAKOVLEV was born in Moscow, Russia and moved to the United States when he was 15. He studied filmmaking and poetry at Harvard University. He is the author of poetry chapbooks Ordinary Impalers (Aldrich Press, 2017), The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015), and Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Prelude, Measure, Amarillo Bay, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and elsewhere. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he was a finalist for the 2016 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award and the winner of the 2016 KGB Poetry Annual Open-Mic Contest. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Esenin, is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books in 2017. He is a co-host of the Carmine Street Metrics reading series and of the Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow reading series, and, starting in January 2017, Education Director at the Bowery Poetry Club. He has also written and directed several short films.

     I'm thrilled to be on the bill with these two. Admission is free. DCCC is located at 53 Pendell Road in Poughkeepsie. Hope to see some of you there!

(Self-) Publish or Perish?

     I've had an epiphany of sorts, not uncommon in middle age I understand. I've had reasonable success in having my prose and poetry published in all the usual literary magazines, some small, some medium-sized. I've gotten the most satisfaction from reading my work aloud. The feedback is immediate and personal. However, the time when I thought I'd become a big-time poet, making a living as the Bard of Kingston (or as I now prefer, "Poet Laureate of Kingston by Default," shortened by my friend Ed to "PL of K) has long since passed.
     It's never been easier to submit work for consideration. The Internet has seen to that. Outside of that annoying labyrinth called "Submittables" (actually not as bad as it sounds at first), many publications accept work via email, either as attachments or in the body of the email itself. Gone are the days of typing out fresh copies of your work, or carefully smoothing the wrinkles out of previously submitted work, enclosing a SASE ("Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope" for you youngsters), and dropping your work in the mailbox on the corner. You would then wait weeks, sometimes months for a reply.
     Now I often receive a yay or nay in a matter of days, even hours. In my preference to send newer work out, I feel like I've almost run out of work to send around. But, I have a backlog of almost forty years of poems, many of which have barely seen daylight, let alone publication. So I will continue to delight in the literary dartboard of sending work away, but without the life or death attachment to the results.
     It recently occurred to me that perhaps my art would be better served by self-publishing. I've done a bit of that over the years, small chapbooks stapled at home, covers painted by hand, even tiny books that were difficult to read. But I've always found tremendous satisfaction in the process. If I make back the cost of materials, fine. If I don't, I still haven't done anything I actually couldn't afford to give away, honestly. I like the control, and the freedom. Those of you who might have seen my chapbooks know I should make better use of editorial services. There's always one major glitch, or several, that has altered the meaning of words, sentences and often whole poems! Part of the "handcrafted" quality of self-publishing.
     I am in the mood to experiment some. There are all kinds of beautiful books that show the basics of bookmaking, and offer more challenging options that the standard stapled spine. I might do a limited (very limited) edition of a poem or two. And there are many choices for professional printing, some on demand so one isn't burdened with too many copies of a book of poems that, to be honest, outside of my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, has limited demand.
     Or I might just starting giving things away. Or charge a dollar a book. There is a theory that even a minimal charge will add value to something. Free chapbooks may mean easily tossed chapbooks, easily lost or discarded. In any case, it might be a better way to expand the conversation I am trying to have with the Universe. And it may be an easier way for the Universe to get in touch with me. That or Twitter. Anybody is allowed on there.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Next Eight Years

I’ll be fifty-five next month.
In eight more years, I’ll be
of legal age to retire, if I hit the Lotto.
I will not allow the antics of Forty-Five
to ruin these next eight years
of work, of art, of major organs
poised for minor failure

Nor will I refer to him
by any of the clever names
the media has concocted:
“Orange Monster.”
He will not be named at all in my house,
no flag, no celebration at his ascent,
a name that would be as fire on the tongue,
unworthy of praise, or energy
to demonize at every turn.

In the Bible book, God asks Adam to
name the animals. Even with all His work,
they aren’t complete until Adam labels them.
Even the Earth is unfinished until God
make a light to show off all the working parts.

In my house, 45’ll never be complete.
In my lucky house, two sound white people,
intelligent, working for now, we have the luxury
of leaving Forty-Five in the dark,
his name missing from our personal headlines,
private conversations over regular dinners,
in well heated bedroom, too.

I’m past the thrill of reliving the Blitz,
charm of memorizing poems the government
doesn’t want anyone to hear.
I think of the peace that passes for understanding,
a balance of sun and sublimation
that has dominated my days.
I am equal now to the challenge of survival,
spirit beyond artificial borders,
contentment beyond the whim of the ballot box.

Presidents come and go, all colors.
It is the woman down the block
I’m concerned with today:
Can she read? Where does she sleep?
Will her body be as safe as mine for the next eight years?
How can I help?

CAR  1/16/17