Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival

Today I’m at the Scissortail Writing Festival in Ada. I’ve already heard great readings by Rilla Askew (reading the first chapter of a new novel in progress!), Jim Spurr, Alan Barecka (with whom I shared space in issue 16 of Ruminate last summer), and others. I read at 2:00 today. Then I can relax and enjoy the rest of the festival.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reading at the Depot

I had a lovely time reading at the historic Norman Depot yesterday in the Second Sunday Poetry series.  Thank you to Carl Sennhenn for the invitation.
It was a small but exceptionally warm and encouraging crowd (It was particularly nice to see John Morris, from Cameron University, whom I had the pleasure of hearing read at the Benedict St. Marketplace reading in Shawnee last year). I couldn’t imagine a better setting for my work, as the old depot is a material metaphor for the very point I am trying to make about the simultaneity of past and present in Elegy for Trains. I think the highpoint of the reading, however, may have been my recitation of Auden’s “As I Walked Out One Evening” over the noise of a passing locomotive. That time spent singing roadhouse blues in college was not wasted, as I had to project over the noise of the train.
Next month’s Second Sunday Poetry Reading, on April 10 at the Depot, will feature Norman area writers reading their works from the new anthology of Oklahoma Writing, Ain’t Nobody that Can Sing Like Me (2010 Mongrel Empire Press).
I’ll be reading along with other Oklahoma City area contributors to the anthology at Oklahoma City University on April 14th. Click HERE for details.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reading in Norman this Sunday

This Sunday, March 13th, I’ll be the reader for the Norman Performing Arts Studio’s “Second Sunday Poetry” Series. The reading will be at the old Norman Depot (very appropriate for my book), which is located at 200 South Jones Avenue in Norman. The reading starts at 2:00 and is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served and my book will be on sale.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: Depending on the Weather by Abigail Keegan

Abigail Keegan read at OBU last week to a nearly full house (the front row was left empty in true Baptist fashion).  I thought I’d post a few thoughts on her new book, Depending on the Weather (2011 Village Books Press), in case you haven’t gotten a copy yet.
Keegan begins the poem, “On Earth,” which closes the book, with the statement, “Here on earth everything happens.”  This statement, besides being obvious in the way that only exquisite poetry can be obvious (pointing us toward a world we don’t know we know), serves as a fine introduction to Keegan’s work, a body of poetry in which, indeed, seemingly everything happens.  This book contains accounts of journeys far and near, gardens planted and pruned, loves sustained and lost.  But, more importantly, in a poem by Abigail Keegan, one encounters a fine awareness of the physicality of what happens.  For instance, in “The Grateful Dead” she hears the insistent demands of the dead not as disembodied voices but as manifested in the objects they have left behind: “There’s not a piece of furniture / they haven’t worn with their touch, / few books without their notes.”  This is a poetry of the material world – the only world we know well – and her poems help us know it better.  She is a poet of vivid images and straight-forward emotional impact. In the powerfully affecting poem, “Frostbite,” for instance, she begins with a precisely painted picture of a city shut down for a snow day – “bananas / disappeared from grocery shelves” – and then moves on to a chilling reflection on how the cancelation of school can lead to increased cases of child abuse, before pleading for a return to ignorance that the courage and candor of her own poem refuses to grant:
                        Go on with the weather report,
                        with cold we prepare for,
                        cold we share, cold we can talk about
                        when it comes to an end.

She is not always that serious. Her work is often imaginative and playful, but it is also lyrical, meditative, and honest.  Above all, Keegan’s poems seem aimed, as she says of the birds in her long poem, “Birding,” to “Teach us to accept the world as it goes.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Dean Young’s book, The Art of Recklessness is a wild, free-form, rollercoaster ride through the mind of one of America’s best surrealist poets. Part treatise on poetics, part mad rant, this book can’t be summed up, so instead I offer some of my favorite quotations:
Curse and blessing, disaster and celebration, that is where our poetry is, in the human pang.  Discipline is only good for the dispensing of punishment.  Art’s great obligation is to its own liberty, and by demonstration, the realization of ours. It is not an exercise any more than making love or dying can be practiced. (36)
Poetry is not efficient.  If you want to learn how to cook a lobster, it’s probably best not to look to poetry. But if you want to see the word lobster in all its reactant oddity, its pied beauty, as if for the first time, go to poetry. And if you want to know what it’s like to be that lobster in the pot, that’s in poetry too. (41)
I don’t believe in writer’s block, writing well is very easy; it’s writing horribly, the horrible work necessary to do to get to writing well, that is so difficult on may just not be willing to do it. (47-48)
Some things, like sewer pipes, we want to go only in one direction.  But art that is at odds with itself, its own being, that contains seeds, signs, slashes of its own demise, embodies the conflict of what it is to be alive. (52)
The conscious mind can adopt the discoveries of the imagination and turn them into technical possibilities. But the imagination will not tolerate being known, mastered by the conscious for long, so it leapfrogs further, and in this way the poet gets more sophisticated at not knowing what he or she is doing. (90)
We are all reading by flashlight during a power outage caused by the storm we are in, the storm we make and are made of.  What we write must be worth those last moments of the battery’s life to our reader.
This is just a small sample.  I could go on and on (Young goes on and on).