Tuesday, November 6, 2012

*Not My Dodge*



             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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

**When You Grow Up**

            I have a friend named Felix. He just celebrated his third birthday. My little joke (which I may share with him someday) is that when he is of age, I will dump my current boyfriend and replace him with Felix. Of course, by the time the lad is 20, I'll be 67. I’m envisioning a sort of Harold and Maude arrangement, but with a slightly happier ending.
            Not having had children of my own (but four on loan from my current love), it has been easy for me to ignore the passing of the years. I have grow slightly older, but now my niece, my nephews--who have they become? And my parents, always younger parents than anyone else's, finally start to show their ages, in body and attitude. I believe they shared a similar revelation recently when my mother remarked, "How did you get to be as old as us?"
            I realized this morning that I might not live long enough to see Felix's children, or even much of his life past his 30th birthday. Regular readers of this irregular blog know that this year has been marked by personal losses, for myself and some close friends. Mortality has firmly asserted itself in my consciousness. A summer wedding helped to suspend the truth for a time, while we celebrated one of life's peaks. Afterwards, I was struck by how much time really has gone by to have gotten to that beautiful point.
            One of Shakespeare's Sonnets ends with this familiar couplet:

            So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
            So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
                                                                                    (Sonnet 18)

The Immortal Bard was onto something. After all, we feel we know Shakespeare well through his writings, and that he does still live and breathe in them, as does the Beloved (and/or the Dark Lady) to whom so many of the Sonnets are addressed. A book is a Brigadoonish contraption that reawakens every time we crack the spine. It's not a physical life certainly, but maybe something better. It's the kind of everlasting that's even more compatible with our basic design, as I see it.
            Every day I compare the importance of doing dishes to spending an hour working on my novel, or revising some poems, using the Hundred Year measure to decide: "In one-hundred years, what will matter?" I don't know if my great-grandmother, Harriet Ingram Mace, was good about housekeeping. I do have dozens of the beautiful doilies she crocheted, and marvel at their fine stitches, charming patterns. A hundred years from now, my dishes, clean or dirty, will probably be in a landfill. The meals they carried will be reduced to compost. Writing is an art that can straddle the centuries. I can reach out to Felix in his old age, and his grandchildren, and although our physical bodies may be no more, our minds will still be able to connect through the words I write today.
            I have no illusions about being a Shakespeare, or even the next Violet "Peaches" Watkins. But for me, writing is what eases my basic loneliness. It gives me a sense of purpose that nothing else ever has. It is my art for better or worse, and I am an artist, with all the inner turmoil that implies. As politics and religion fall consistently short of creating the Utopian world (here and hereafter)  they promise, art gives us roses in the desert. Here is my rose for Felix, and Russell, Dallas, Jaimee' and all the ones that have come after me. Imperfect, slightly bent stem, a thorn or two, but a rose of words that will never fade. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

*To Read or Not To Read*

     I have recently made myself pretty scarce at most of the open poetry mics in the Hudson Valley area, for a variety of personal reasons. Essentially it came down to two things: there were people I didn't wish to see, and poets I didn't wish to hear. Hibernating for a while seemed to be my best option. It was after all Winter (then Spring, then Summer...), and I was unemployed and money was tight and it was just easier to stay home and zone out to the most recent Netflix for the evening with my Beloved Roommate at my side.

     This Spring, I started to do some substitute teaching again, something I've done on and off for many years, basically since I graduated from SUNY New Paltz with teaching certification, English 7-12. One school district in particular welcomed me with open, eager arms, and I logged many hours in there, on both the elementary and secondary levels. I needed the challenge and I needed to get out of the house, and all in all, it was a good choice. I will probably continue subbing in the Fall, expanding into one or two more districts so that when my unemployment benefits are finally discontinued, I will still have some money coming in.

     A sub's day begins at 5:30 am, and often leaves me exhausted by dinnertime. Another good reason to stay home. I made a few exceptions to my abstinence, like the wonderful reading series that occur all over the Capitol District, but for the most part, I kept in touch with the poetry world online. Summer has allowed me more time to write, to continue to search for a full-time job, and to contemplate my future.

     The desire to write has never left me, and I suspect never will. I am well into the second draft of a first novel. I'm not sure it'll be anything special, but I am committed to finishing more projects these days. Is reading at local open mics really a necessary part of the writing process? Of being a writer? I have been attending these events steadily for the better part of twenty-five years now, and many of the regular faces are familiar. Many are good writers. Some are good writers who found some theme, some style that they were comfortable with and never left it. Others are horrendous writers who are indulged by generous-to-a-fault hosts who are afraid of offending attendees, to the point of rewarding them with features that their work doesn't currently warrant, in my my opinion, and may never warrant.

     I don't believe there's any great secret to increasing attendance at readings. Publicity is key, of course. In this day of the Great and Powerful Internet, there's no excuse. Send out an email once a month to the hundreds of email addresses you should be acquiring at your events when readers are signing up. More important, however, is the quality of the features. If a nonpoet should wander in to one of these events and hear one of the Ramblers, the Theatrical Declaimers, the Nonsensical Masturbators at the mic, I don't blame them for not returning. Or telling their friends to avoid it as well.

     People still refer to the poet Bob Wright, the faithful compiler of the Poetz.com calendar for Hudson Valley readings, as the "Poetry Nazi," from his days as the leader of the Woodstock Poetry Society. However, everyone got a chance, no one abused their time at the mic, and features were selected based on the quality of their work, not because they were 'frequent flyers'. Granted, it helps if you become a familiar face around the venues. It's not a black & white world, this World of Arts & Literature. But for the most part, Bob selected quality readers from the Hudson Valley area to stretch their wings over a thirty minute period, giving listeners a bigger sampling of their work than in the open. And it was good.

     What do you think? About any of this? It certainly could be the Change of Life talking today. Could be the Still Unemployed Poet with too many bills and not enough skills to compete in today's hellish job market. But I can't be the only one. It would be nice to go to a reading where the variety,  the originality was honored with attentive listeners who came to listen, and not just to hear themselves talk. Not a perfect world, certainly. But, it could be better.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

**Of Ice and Men: An Overdue Publishing Announcement!**

This past spring, my latest chapbook, MY MINNESOTA BOYHOOD, was published by Post Traumatic Press in Woodstock, NY. Contrary to its title, I neither had a boyhood nor grew up in Minnesota. It is a collection of poems inspired by a close friendship with a man who did, comparing and contrasting, through fantasy and present experience, his childhood there and mine on Long Island.

As do most fantasies, this one was obligated to end, somehow, in its final pages of course. Following is the last poem from the book. I give away nothing by sharing it here. There is no secret story told in the rest of the poems. It is simply a gentle admission that, indeed, returning to New York, now, was at the last, the necessary and healthy thing to do:

Leaving Minnesota

Rail's the only way to go, fast
and yet you can still make out
faces at the depots, houses, coffee shops.
By car, you stop and start as you please,
deviating for a last pretzel or Orange Julius
at the Mall, or strong coffee, a slice of
rhubarb pie before hitting the highway.
Airplanes are efficient, surreal, as you
board in one part of the country,
say, the part that's cold, filled with frozen lakes
and men who insist on fishing them,
and get off in another world where
winter is for satellite TV, writing poems about places
you never really knew, green fields and blue lakes
you've heard about on Public Radio.
But it's time to go, before reality sets in,
before that sentimental journal sees another sunrise,
shows wrinkles in your smooth imagination,
before daylight proves you're alone.
Leaving Minnesota any way is best, but leaving is key.
Let memory ripen like a plum on a spring bough,
let flowers bloom on the untouched branch.
Let the lakes melt, boats return to the water, fish begin
the happy cycle of love, of life, of rushing off to hook or harbor,
their bright tones fading with summer and sun.
Let the small houses rest onshore,
waiting for other summers, other expeditions.
Let the giant walleye, as its name implies,
look to its future with one eye on winter past,
remember indigo twilight of November,
the real freeze that comes before buds
burst into one more verse of their same song.

MY MINNESOTA BOYHOOD is available for $8 from  either myself or Post Traumatic Press, at PO Box 544, Woodstock, NY, 12498.

Monday, May 14, 2012

*Ten MORE Commandments!*

The Ten Commandments for Open Poetry Mics

1. Thou Shalt Not read for more than the allotted time.

2. Thou Shalt Not spend more time explaining your poem than it takes to read it.

3. Thou Shalt Not apologize for your poem beforehand.

4. Thou Shalt Not brag that your poem was written just moments before you got to the mic.

5. Thou Shalt Not sign up to read, then disappear until it's your turn.

6. Thou Shalt Not harass, distract or heckle the reader in progress.

7. Thou Shalt Not leave the reading immediately after you've read, except in the event of an
    Emergency or a Prior Commitment, and with Profuse Apologies offered.

8. Thou Shalt Not arrive late to a reading and then expect to be able to read.

9. Thou Shalt Not have a Neverending Sign-Up Sheet.

10. Thou Shalt Not neglect to Publicize your reading in every possible forum: newspapers,
     magazines, email, social networks and other readings. This goes for Both Featured Readers and

Thursday, March 8, 2012

*Poem: "Prayer Flags"*

raking the yard, bagging last autumn's refuse
before early spring snow
saturates the piles--

shreds of twisted cloth,
white here in the bushes,
red in a crack in the stone wall,
blue buried under mulch--

Xmas morning, my smoky lover,
brings in a string stretched, loose threads,
remains of prayer flags yanked off the porch,

thumbtacks intact, no snow
to betray vandal footprints--

I do not believe in prayer,
requests or praise aimed up, away
to some divine parent who

may or may not be home,
will do as they please in any case,
leave us to label it grace or miracle--

but I like the idea of prayer flags
shuddering in the breeze, visible 

messenger of global good wishes
thread by thread,
marking mine a tooth fairy-free home--

colored scraps now, months after the act,
hurried to dispel their tidings, enabled
by rough, angry hands--

or was it fear my prayers were to be
answered, theirs tossed in neglected heaps,
mementos of spring, crumbling
in winter heat?

CAR  2/29/12

Thursday, February 23, 2012

*Follow Your What?*

I saw the new documentary about Joseph Campbell (really, more of a rehash of Campbell's basic philosophies as interpretted by various self-help and likewise gurus) the other night at a local independent theatre. Center for Symbolic Studies and Campbell biographer Stephen Larsen apologized in advance for the film's shoestring budget. "Don't expect Steven Spielberg," he quipped. But perhaps it was those limited funds that made the film all the more moving for me. Children in costumes gathered perhaps from their own play supplies were used to dramatize the various concepts and the basic path of the Hero, a core image of Campbell's work and the common thread he found in most of the mythologies of the world.

Sprinkled in were clips from some of the many Hollywood films that incorporate the Hero's journey. Many might surprise you, such as "Casablanca" and "The Wizard of Oz". The latter should not have surprised me, since for years I've recognized its blatant similarities to "Star Wars." George Lucas makes no secret of having based Luke Skywalker's adventures on Campbell's work. The Hero's path is circular, and includes confrontation, evolution and passing the story along. In Hollywood circles, this formula makes for easy multiple sequels. In real life, the journey is not so clear cut.

"Follow Your Bliss," is the ringing refrain in Campbell's writings and interviews. But what if your bliss is just not commercially viable? What if you've spent the first fifty years of your life picking away at the edges of it, fitting in all the other journeys around it that seem to have brought you to this brick wall? Poetry is truly the only activitiy that I feel totally alive during, totally engaged. I am certainly not the best poet in the world, nor will I ever be. As I age, I do, however,have more and more to share in my own work. I have been on a few paths, many of which have felt like less than heroic endeavors. Poetry has never been my primary concern, but it has been the thing that makes most of the rest of life tolerable.

Over the last few months, these passings in my life have served to not only scare me away from toying with the romantic notion of ending my own, but to encourage me to cut away the extraneous clutter that has accumulated around me and devote more time to the heart of it all. I will never be in a better position financially, even with unemployment as my sole income at the moment. My mortgage is miniscule, and my wants are truly few. I have a basement to clear out, papers to put in order, poems to write. The office is next, to organize and truly make into a space of productivity, not merely impressive looking storage!

I still look for a day gig. I have to. "Follow Your Bliss," simply won't pay that tiny mortgage, and unemployment is bound to be cut off sometime. But I do have the time now to get a few projects back on track. I am well into the horse chapbook, the first collection I've done writing to a theme instead of putting random poems together after the fact. I am also thrilled to have two other chapbooks coming out this year. Still, I must be somewhat practical.

Can I hold bliss in my heart, know what's the fire that drives my engine while still spending my days raking the yard and washing dishes? Are these things all part of the one and same journey? What can I tell others about the paths I've taken so far?

*Poem: "North of Houdini"*

I have never seen someone
assert themselves as little in the
coffin as your father today.
Shadow of his former selves,
if it had not been for your
mother's cascade of recognition
the moment we approached the metal box

I wouldn’t have known him at all,
despite seed catalogs, chocolate bars,
lap blanket the coroner
threw upside down over his bottom half,
legs as inconsequential as Jerry Mahoney's,
formerly full, white head of
Irish sea foam retreating
back into the skull from which
it bloomed eighty-two years ago.

I would never have known
by the cemetery full of boat names,
Murphys and Donahues, lacking the
Polish alphabet of reasons
my ancestors possess in their
own private hunting grounds
just north of Houdini.

Joseph, your brother, lies patiently
at your father's bare feet, himself
small shadow of alternative ending,
wings folded, carefully diapered
in the way they diapered babies
fifty years ago, never having lived
long enough to see his father's
purple irises wave like an ocean of mercy
across one small Pennsylvania yard.

Joseph, it is your turn now
to feed him the candy bars,
help him grow strong and masterful.
Your mother is here, and on this end,
we will keep her busy, keep her from
needles and alcoholic rainbows,
until it’s time to make the hole
a little wider, accepting into it
one more lily of this man's field.

CAR  2/15/12

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

*Time, Time, Time, See What's Become Of Me?*

I'm coming up on 5 months of unemployment, and am busier than ever. I have commited to writing for about an hour a day, and this has benefited my primary project, a chapbook with a horse theme. In fact, it may grow up into a full-length poetry manuscript if things keep going the way they are. On my to-do list is to get all the stray projects I have in careful files, boxes and folders and arrange them in my writing nook to be easily accesible. This way, when each particular Muse strikes me, and they do strike, I can grab said materials and get going on it!

Other goals I have include cleaning out the basement, cleaning off the refrigerator and rearranging the corner shelves so that I can properly display my new Jadite bowls, a foolish layaway that I choose to consider an early birthday present to myself.

One difficulty for me has been something that may be common to most artists. I have trouble justifying any time I spend writing. There's a guilty little voice in the back of my head that seems to insist I look for a job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Then the house beckonss, and cleaning chores seem to always need doing. That call is relatively faint. I am a firm believer that even a lousy poem will have more meaning to humankind than an empty sink.

Perhaps this is why I've never been able to fully commit to writing as a life. I have never been able to really, truly acknowledge that my work has value, that it is important, to me and to others. There is of course the issue of money, which really is always an issue, but there are so many hours in a day. Why do I begrudge myself just one or two of them to devote to the only thing that makes sense, the art I have chosen above all others to express myself in?

I know I'm not Shakespeare or Plath or Jurkovic. I have my limits, but I am growing. This year in particular I am striving to reach beyond my familiar circle of friends who have supported my work and my readings for many years. Part of that is being true to myself and my work. It is my account of my days here. It is my witnessing. Right now, I have black bean soup in the crockpot, chicken fat rendering on the stove and plans to be out by 12:30 to get to the gym, and an eye appointment at 2:30. I should be home in time to make dinner, the unspoken deal I have with my boyfriend, since he is out of the house all day.

I may type a poem or two up while the chicken is simmering. And oh yes, perhaps toss another resume' out to the four winds, hoping it will land in some sympathetic employer's lap who may even email me to say s/he received it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

*Poem: "Mustangs"*

                                                                        -for Susan now

 The thing I admire about Marilyn is how she tried,
with makeup, with movies, with husbands.
In that last film with Gable and the mustangs,
black and white Nevada desert,
she was really good. But then, she was always good.

She looks like a voluptuous ghost,
stiff blonde wig to make her hairdresser's
work easier on location.
Marilyn did her job, when she got to the set,
when she let loose, went into motion.

Even in black and white, her eyes still
burn like blue coals, even this late
in her soap opera of her life.

Did she stall out of terror—of Gable?
She looks so at home in his big tanned hands,
ready for bedtime stories and tucking in.
Not the camera; they had a thing, her steadiest beau.
Their love alone has stood the test of time.

Maybe under those Western stars, far Vegas overkill
black between the lights, endless Sierras
rimming the horizon, she felt even smaller.
Maybe Norma Jeanne
kept Marilyn up all night.
"We're all dying," she says in the film,
and what kind of line is that to stuff
in the mouth of the woman you used to love?
Bitter Valentine, a caution to other women
who think they're safe with a writer.

Mustangs at the end of Gable's rope
snort and buck, give a good performance,
slick with prop sweat.

I admire how she worked to stay alive.
Consider how little Norma Jeanne
was ever worth on the open market.
She knew that with Marilyn
the sky itself
was the

CAR  12/2/99

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

*They Come In Threes*

This one has absolutely nothing to do with poetry, but the events of the last couple of weeks. Three deaths in one week is just stupid in anyone's life. The myth is that poets thrive on death and tragedy. Just like everyone else, we each react in different ways. I wasn't particularly thrilled, nor was I inspired to pen an ode to each of the three who passed. Yet my work was affected, as every life changing event will affect your art.

My Auntie Dottie died on January 15 after complications following a heart attack. She was a funny, caring woman who has been through a lot in her 71 years. I will probably never really grasp the fact that she's gone. I chose not to go to the services for various personal reasons, but even seeing the body sometimes doesn't make it any more real.

There is this cast of characters in my family, the aunts and uncles I grew up with, and in my mind's eye they never change, they never age, and they never die. I suppose moving away from Long Island to go to college, then never quite moving back, has frozen them in my mind. In a way, they are all parts of the foundation I built my life on. When they die, my foundation is literally rattled. This is how her death affected me. The landscape is forever changed.

I haven't written a thing about her yet, but I'm sure she's somewhere back in my arsenal of images. I am working most diligently on a chapbook of poems about horses, having grown up around them. So did Aunt Dottie. I usually shy away from dedications on my chapbooks, but this one will be for her. Maybe I can include that beautiful picture of her on horseback, as a teenager. That would be perfect.

My friend Rosanne called me about the death of our friend Susan the day after I found out about Aunt Dottie. Susan, Rosanne and I were all part of the Stone Ridge Poetry Society back in the mid ‘80s, but I don’t remember Susan from those days. She always said she remembered me! Of course, I was the woman with two first names then. At least that much did stick in a person’s mind!

Everything that could possibly be wrong in someone's life was wrong in Susan's, yet whenever we spoke, she always had a plan, several plans for the future. Ultimately, her body failed her, in part due to stress, but I'll always be inspired by her persistence. She, too, was a funny woman, smart and independent. It's the stubborn independence that may have contributed to her early death at 57, but it also enabled her to live the life she wanted for many years. I will always miss her hospitality, her insights, her easy ear. Real confidantes are sometimes hard to find, and Susan was one. I hope I listened sometimes, too.

The third passing didn’t hit as close to home as the first two, but was still saddening. In the spring I reconnected with my ex sister-in-law, thanks to Facebook of all things, and she and her husband Andrew even attended one of my readings. Unfortunately, Andrew was in and out of the hospital for most of the summer and we never got together again except for my visit to his hospital room one day.

Bella was so obviously the reason for his being. I'm sure she kept him going. They made the trip down by car to Florida for their annual snowbird exodus last fall. He died last Thursday, his body finally too tired to go on. I haven't spoken to Bella yet in person, but I'm flattered that in all her grief, she thought to call and leave me a message about Andrew. I long ago lost any rank or importance in her family, but not to Bella I guess. I can't wait to see her again.

Before these passings, I had fallen into a regular routine of writing and revising poetry for at least an hour a day. I hope to get back to that, and have done some work in the last couple of days. I hate when people pretentiously speak on behalf of the deceased, oh, ‘So-and-So would have wanted it that way…’ We can’t really be sure. Susan knew how much poetry means to me. Aunt Dottie and Andrew knew I was a poet. It just wasn’t a part of their life experience.

I have to continue. I don’t have a choice. I’m the one who’s still here, somehow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

**COAST TO COAST- Poetry Chaplet**

COAST TO COAST, original poetry chaplet by Cheryl A. Rice, c. 2011 Flying Monkey Press, only $5, postage included.

From the title poem:

"Coast to coast doesn't have to mean
Silver Zephyr, Orangeland Express.
There are commuters, the bi-coastal,
but the way I was raised, it's a world away."

A collection of poems about love lost, found, then lost again on opposite sides of the country. Quantities are limited!

Email me at dorothyy62@hotmail.com for the address to send your order to! Thanks!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

**2012: Year of the Chapbooks!**

            2011 ended on something of a downbeat. In October, I was "let go" from my job as manager at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in Saugerties. This was not a surprise, and I should have been preparing for it long before it happened. And it’s not without a little satisfaction that I now learn that I was replaced by a part-time manager! Onward and upward!

            Eligible for unemployment, I have spent a good portion of the last three months organizing my life. After last summer's horrific storms, I was inspired to begin tackling the piles of goods I have managed to store up in the basement of Casa Diva in the ten years I've been here, and the five my boyfriend has spent here as well. Consolidation, charity, out in the trash-- all options have been exercised. I don't ever want to move as much stuff as I did when I moved in here. The thing is, this house was the first place I was able to have all my possessions in at one time since I lived with my parents. It is time to let go of so much.

            I have also used the time to put together a couple of chapbooks, mainly from existing work, and I'm pleased to announce that I have TWO chapbooks scheduled for publication in 2012. In December, I put together a small chaplet through my own Flying Monkey Press as well. "Coast to Coast" is only $3, and believe me when I say quantities are limited. I'm not trying to be cute; only sixteen of them came out well enough to sell!! The chaplet is an homage to a special person who inspired a number of poems over the years, and although not enough to qualify as a full blown chapbook, I felt I wanted to get what work I had regarding this person out there, and in some kind of collected form.

            I sent a manuscript titled, "My Minnesota Boyhood" to Finishing Line Press back in February for their New Women’s Voices contest and heard nothing about the outcome until just a few days ago. An email informed me that the book had been accepted for publication, outside of the contest. Attached was their standard contract, requiring a presale of fifty-five copies for the minimum press run. Although satisfied that my work was in fact acceptable, I was somewhat annoyed at their total lack of communication beforehand. I had to keep checking their website to find out when a winner had been declared in the contest. In this age of email, I don't see any excuse for not sending a quick note to contestants.

            My friend Guy Reed had a book published by Finishing Line last year, and neither of us was altogether thrilled with the experience. Strange delays, oddly impersonal, form-type emails-- one had to wonder if his manuscript had been read at all. The final product was very nice, though in my opinion a bit overpriced at $12 for a stapled binding, but the content is of course excellent. I highly recommend "The Effort to Hold Light," and it's available through either Finishing Line or Amazon.

            In the meantime, I offered the same manuscript to Dayl Wise at Post Traumatic Press, based in Woodstock, NY. He had already put two months work into the book when I got the email from Finishing Line. He thought I was crazy to turn them down, I supposed because in some circles they might qualify as a "real" publisher. Dayl's press, started to in part provide a forum for the writings of military veterans, is as real as it gets. If I was to receive some sort of cash prize, I would have had second thoughts (see above). But all things being equal, I will continue to "dance with them that brung me," and "My Minnesota Boyhood" will be coming out in the next couple of months.

            A second manuscript, this one a collection of poems inspired by the city of Albany, NY and my experiences there over the last twenty-plus years, is in the works. Dan Wilcox is the proprietor at APD Press in Albany, and a longtime friend. He puts out few chapbooks these days, what with demonstrating and reigning as the Capitol District's Old Beatnik of Letters, but what he does do is carefully selected work. I am honored that he's accepted my work. I think we might be looking at fall for this one, and it's as yet untitled, but I will keep you posted on its whereabouts. 

            In the meantime, I'm writing, revising, and oh yeah, looking for a day job. I in no way believe that I'll be able to earn a living as a poet, and frankly, this gives me the freedom to write what I like, instead of what others assign to me. Better for my art, better for my mental health. Pass along any leads on work, and let me know if anything sounds interesting... anything, really!! It's been too long and I have no excuses for getting at least one update a month up here. Mea Culpa, as the overeducated say.

            Happy 2012!!