Saturday, June 23, 2007

Poetry with Juliet

Here are the women (Rob, Patricia and Susan not pictured) of Juliet Patterson's class "Density, Details and Lists: Exercises in Poetry."

Back Row: (left to right)
Tonja, Alice, Sally, Selene

Front Row: (left to right)
Pat, Niki, Juliet, Jane, Angela and Amy

I felt honored to be in a room with so many talented poets ready and willing to share their words with stangers (well, not strangers by the end of the week).

I wrote about 12 new poems and now just have to revise them and rework them -- it feels great!

Thank you classmates, Juliet Patterson, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and my generous grant from United Arts of Wake County Regional Project Grant for making this week possible for me!


Prairie Lights Bookstore -- an Iowa City Destination!

During my week in Iowa I attended two readings at Prairie Lights, Iowa City's premier bookstore. All of the reading sair on Saturdays from 8-10 pm and on Sundays 7-8 pm on WOI 640AM or on Sundays from 5-6pm on KSUI 91.7 FM.
We were the live studio audience!

On Monday, Susan and I listened to Judith Strasser and Anne-Marie Cusac (Silkie), two journalists who have recently published poetry books. We missed Anne-Marie's readings, but Judith's reading of The Reason/Unreason Project was extremely personal, ironic and witty. Here's a taste from "Cancer Dream":
They're running IV's on women in turbans.
Jaundiced patients are having blood drawn.
In a barbaric contraption topped by a vial
of Nembutal, someone's hanging upside down.
I survived cancer.
I take long bike rides.
I am anemic.
I am the dreamer.
I am terrified.
On Thursday night, a crowd of us dodged the rain storm to listen to Jim Autry (in above picture) give his reading on Looking Around for God: The Oddly Reverent Observations of an Unconventional Christian. The book is a collection of essays with titles such as, "Sex and Sunday School" and "God at the Track Meet." He also has several poems included as well. Jim was a fighter pilot, a Fortune 500 executive and is motivational speaker and consultant, among other talents.
Jim and his wife Sally Pederson (former Lt. Gov of Iowa) have a 22-year-old son, Ronald, who has autism, and I found the essays around the couple's experiences with their son very moving. I spoke a long time to both Jim and Sally about autism research and told them a little bit about my experiences with Daniel, who at 2-years-old was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We got Daniel in school-sponsored intervention programs and I told them how far he's progressed so he'll be ready for kindergarten.
Sally and Jim live in Des Moines.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Iowa Week: June 17-22

Iowa City, Iowa.

This week I studied poetry with Juliet Patterson (The Truant Lover). The name of the class was "Density, Details and Lists: Exercises in Poetry." And boy, did we do some exercises! We had readings and poetry writing homework every night and I tried to write more poems that the required amount, since I know my schedule when I get back to Raleigh. I had dinner with friends in Jane Mead's "Advanced Poetry" class most nights, went to two fabulous Prairie Lights readings (Iowa's premier independent bookstore famous around the nation where all of the readings are podcasted before us, the studio audience), and then worked on my writing till about 12:30 or 1am every night.

Juliet instructed us on the NY School of Poetry, Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca, the ecstatic school and much more. We would study a poem, say, William Stafford's "Things I Learned Last Week" and then use that title to jumpstart our poems. I worked on trying to use my imagination more and take leaps.

Everyone in the class has so much talent and it was a pleasure to hear and share their work.

The classes at the Iowa Festival are from 2-5 pm, leaving a lot of room to work, eat, sleep, visit museums, chat, drink coffee, shop and run. I loved the flexibility. I ran in the mornings, visited the art and history museums, listened to the 11 am "Elevenses" Lectures on writing, craft and literary mag submissions. On Friday, for the Elevenses the faculty shared their work. We had an opening reception on Monday night with wine and cheese in the Old Capital Museum, an Open Mic on Wednesday night and several "unsanctioned" Open Mics behind the Iowa House/Student Union where I and the majority of Festival participants stayed. As we read our poetry, we had a perfect view of the Iowa River at sunset. I made some good friends after these Open Mics and I even sold quite a few of my books!

I don't know if I can get back here next year, but I highly recommend this experience to you out there -- you'll write, network, learn and will be inspired!
Thanks again to United Arts of Wake County, Regional Artist Project Grant Award Program, which made this week possible for me!


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Getting to Iowa, Sunday 6/17, Happy Father’s Day

Saturday night and I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I couldn’t find my flight out of Raleigh to connect to Chicago, which would then take me to Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was to depart from RDU at 9:45 on Sunday morning. I first checked with US Air, and found the second flight on United. I went downstairs to share my confusion with Keith, who remained extremely calm. I wasn’t calm. We called the US Air Help Desk and they said that my flight did exist, but we still couldn’t print out my boarding pass.

The next day Keith and Daniel dropped me off at RDU, neither early nor late at Terminal A, where US Air is located. There were four people in front of me and the agents took at least ten minutes to process them. When it was my turn, the agent said I was in the wrong terminal, since my flight was a United one and it would leave out of Terminal C.
“What! Will I make it?” my temperature rose.

He said, “You can hope that the plane will be late.”

My suitcase and I rolled down the stairs and through the parking garage. Upon arriving, I recognized a couple that been in Terminal A and they had had the Terminal A agent on the phone for at least ten minutes. I slid in next to them, while a quick, bald agent asked us if we were headed to Chicago. I piped up and my bag was checked after another agent had to verify and verify that I was indeed on this flight. My original flight was wiped clean by United and I was given another flight in its place. I hate United (and I’m on two United flights bound for home).

Turns out that Chicago flight was oversold and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if I had made it through the security line in thirty seconds or less (I had to take off my belt and bracelet), as well as unpack my laptop. As I ran to the furthest gate possible, clutching my fanny pack like a football and only dropping my cell phone once, I squealed to a halt at the gate agent desk, with a few other folks waiting to see if they could fly standby. No luck for any of us. I didn’t have priority since I was behind the other ticketed passengers who had assigned seats and printed out boarding passes. I had neither. Our plane rolled away. Have you ever seen the plane you were supposed be on fly away? Lucky for me, I got another flight with American at 2:40, which meant that I would be late for the Iowa Registration/Welcome dinner, but I would still make the first class and orientation if I arrived in Iowa City at 7:30 pm.

At least I got a free lunch from United at any of the food places in Terminal C. After picking up my dry sandwich, chips and chocolate milk for Daniel, Keith picked me up. “Hi, again!” and we had lunch together and later I lathered Daniel up with sunscreen and got him ready for their pool date later that afternoon. I printed out my new boarding passes and made certain I had assigned seats.

Then everything went like clockwork. I insisted on getting to the airport early. My number came up in the security line and I had to be patted down, but at least I left plenty of time for this, right? We left Raleigh on time, made it to Chicago and then to Cedar Rapids. I had to wait for the shuttle for a half hour, but then we were soon on our way. Boarding the mini van was a lady in her forties with a cane and a shoulder sling who sat next to me. She immediately spoke to me and I found myself relaxing. Turns out Susan, my new friend, was headed not only to the Festival, but she was in the same poetry class as me! Unfortunately, her mother-in-law had recently passed away, so she had to leave for Dallas on Tuesday, missing most of her writing week. She also was missing her bags since a woman in California (where she’s from) had picked them up by mistake. Susan’s travel days were much much worse than mine. I told her things can only get better and then they did.

Next: a summary of Iowa Week with pictures!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Homer Hickam at Quail Ridge Books

Homer Hickam, author of noted works such as Rocket Boys and Torpedo Junction (and fellow Hokie) , spoke to our writing group at Quail Ridge Books yesterday, 6/15/07. He was in town promoting his new WW II, Josh Thurlow novel, The Far Reaches. Amidst wine and cheese in the back of the store, Homer discussed his writing process, how he got his big break with Rocket Boys, and a couple of memorable anecnotes about blurbing and editors that weren't so funny at the time. I loved the fact that he lives with several cats and he and his wife rise early to take care of Batman, the diabetic, and that when he runs every afternoon he gets all of these grand ideas that sometimes work.

Before we knew it, it was 7pm and Homer had to start speaking. There was a big crowd for a Friday evening and all I can say is that I'm glad I got a good space in the signing line, or I would have been there till close. Homer's warm, personable and is so generous with aspiring writers.

You rock, Homer!

My next posting will be a dispatch from the Iowa Summer Writing Festival!


Monday, June 11, 2007

Three Talented Poets Read in N Raleigh

On Sunday, June 10th, three notable local poets read from their works at the new North Regional Library. From left to right: Bruce Lader, Dave Manning and Maureen Sherbondy.

Maureen introduced Dave, Bruce and herself to the good-sized audience for a hot Sunday afternoon. She read from her latest collection published by Main Street Rag, After the Fairy Tale. Many of her poems dealt with loss, family and what happens when the "fairy" tale gives way to reality. "Honeysuckle" and "Existential Golidlocks" ("The everyday sameness / of life nudges her into a state of yawn and nap") resonated the most with me, but they were all excellent. Maureen does an outstanding job with rhythm and internal rhyme and gives you a little punch at the end. Speaking of punchy ends, Dave Manning's "Modus Scriptori," which likened his creative process to blue fungi received thunderous applause ("My lines spread like blue fungus / up a shower-stall, not fast, but unstoppable"). He read many poems from his latest chapbook, Detained by the Authorities from Pudding House. Dave's poems address love, the past, and poets who need to be taken down a notch. After Dave, Bruce read from his collection, Discovering Mortality, which dealt with sons and fathers. I enjoyed his poem about his father who served in a German internment camp in the Southwestern US and the poem imagines what the relationship was like between the two men.

Be sure not to miss Maureen, Dave and Bruce the next time they read!


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More Photos from National Poetry Month

Karen Michelle Raines (Poetically Correct) and I read at North Regional Library on Sat. April 21st.
Here I am at Quail Ridge Books on April 1st reading with Michael McFee and Ellen Bush. (photo by Michael Graziano) This was my first reading for National Poetry Month.

More Press 53

This past Sunday Kevin Watson of Press 53, along with Joseph Mills and Doug Frelke, read from their work at the Cameron Village Library in Raleigh. There was a good crowd and Kevin's book bag was definitely lighter than when he and Joe left for Raleigh from Winston-Salem.

First, Kevin gave a brief overview of Press 53, which is his favorite number. He also read a short story from his collection, "You Can't Meet Jesus Wearing Sneakers." Then Joe read from "Somewhere During the Spin Cycle," his poetry collection and the audience laughed after each of his punchy poems which all end with a flourish. Doug closed out the show with excerpts from two stories from "Croatan," his most recent book. It thundered several times during his talk and always when he paused, so we never missed a word!

I support Press 53 whenever I'm able since their mission is to publish quality literature that might be passed over by the big publishing houses in New York. So check them out next time they're in town!