Saturday, September 14, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Tough Day Edition

1. being able to be with friends on a difficult day
2. finding things to celebrate instead of mourn
3. taking care of each other
4. telling stories
5. laughing

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Rainy Friday Morning Edition

1. sleeping with the sound of rain on the roof
2. having a little time in the morning to get my act together before I head to campus
3. a Pats win--even if it's ugly
4. hilarious emails from good friends (or from anyone, really)
5. the smell of nectar evaporating in the hive, turning to honey

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

Astute readers may have noticed that I haven't been writing as many blog posts recently. The FTTDS lists are sometimes missing and often late (I'll try to be better about that—this whole have-to-be-somewhere-in-the-morning thing takes some getting used to during the first couple of weeks back at campus). The longer essays haven't been here much at all.

It's not that I've run out of things to say—I've got tons to talk about, friends, and I'll be trying to figure out ways to fit it all in. But I've been writing a lot of poems—a LOT of poems—often long after I should have turned the light out and gone to sleep. Writing them, reading them, occasionally revising them. I've got a couple of major editorial projects on my plate at Cider Press Review and an even bigger one in the works (that's still under wraps for now, but I'm sure I'll be talking about it here, too, once the time comes).

I came back from my week-long conference in Connecticut artistically revived, as you might have noticed. It’s not always easy to hang on to that as the semester grinds on—there are papers to read, all of which need thoughtful comments; emails come in at a record pace; I’m developing workshops both on-campus and off, both as a professor and as a poet. And life outside of being a poet/professor carries its own demands. I don’t think of any of these things as chores, generally speaking. I love my life, and I’m blessed to be able to do so much work that I love every day, to be both artistically and academically fulfilled, to have a home life that I cherish. But sometimes that cherished home life and fulfilling academic life can be a drain on the artistic part. The editing—even though it’s editing poetry—can also distract me.

I know it’s not fall yet—and as an avid hater of winter, I hang on to summer until September 21st, and I will employ fisticuffs if necessary to defend summer’s reign—but I’ve already declared All Poetry Autumn in my life. This means that in my spare time, the only reading I’ll do will be dedicated to poetry. It might not always be poems—craft books count, as do essays about poetry and poets, and books that I can use towards my own writing. For example, right now I’m reading a cheery little number called The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. It’s part philosophy, part social commentary, part discussion of the effects of torture on both the victim and the torturer. It’s not, in short, a beach read. But Elaine Scarry has a lot to say about our perception of pain, and while she states pretty clearly that her discussion is about physical, not emotional pain, I’m not so sure about that. I’m seeing all sorts of parallels to my writing, and I want to continue to explore these topics, despite the fact that this particular book is so dense that I’m lucky to make it through 10 pages in a day (in fact, I put it down a couple of weeks ago and haven’t picked it back up yet—but it’s sitting right here, on my desk, waiting).

Mostly, though, I’m working my way through my heavily-burdened poetry shelves. I’ve read manuscripts for three friends since the beginning of August. I’ve read craft essays. I’ve read halfway through Robert Hass’ new and collected, re-read Catherine Carter’s fun and disturbing and thought-provoking The Swamp Monster at Home, re-read Derek Walcott’s excellent White Egrets, begun Diane Lockward’s fabulous craft book The Crafty Poet (which, really, every poet on the planet should buy right now). Martha Ronk’s book Partially Kept is waiting for me on the desk in my office as I type this (as is a second copy of The Body in Pain…whoops. Sometimes having access to multiple interlibrary loan systems is a dangerous power). And I’ve drafted an almost ridiculous number of poems, considering how tooth-extractingly, painfully slow writing has been for me in the past couple of years. I’m writing them, putting them aside, writing another when it comes. I’m not revising much or obsessing or thinking about publication. I’m just writing, generating material I can turn to later when I’m not being as generative.

So I recommend you all start on your own All Poetry Autumn, in whatever form that may take for you. What do you miss? What part of yourself have you been starving while the other parts—sometimes less worthy, sometimes not—feast? Spend a little time listening to yourself, think about the things you regret not having time for. Resolve to steal a little time from something else. Then pick a time range—a week, a month, a season—and find a way to feed that need. I recommend starting conservatively, say with a week, because I’m one of those people who likes to keep resetting goals upward until I have no chance of meeting them. In other words, do as I say, not as I do.

Other aspects of your life will probably suffer. We can’t create time. I miss my Scandinavian crime fiction already, for example. I miss Jon Stewart, whom I now only see in clips online. I miss Tim Gunn, since I have completely skipped this season of Project Runway. But this shit is important and I want to try to honor that for a little while more. I already see the difference in my writing life, and that satisfaction and concentration is creating an ability for me to be more present in the other parts of my life. I need to be fully on-campus when I’m on campus, because I won’t be checking my email at 9PM. I need to be fully engaged in conversation with Jed when we’re talking, because later on I won’t want to stop writing to talk to him. I need to get my writing in now, because I’m teaching in the morning. It all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, and the picture gets clearer and clearer as I go. Maybe there’s a piece in there for Jon Stewart and Jo Nesbo and Tim Gunn and maybe there isn’t, but I’ll figure that out once I’ve got some more pieces in place.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Thursday Edition

1. getting all the grading done on Wednesday, possibly for the first time ever
2. baking chocolate chip cookies for the peer tutor meeting tomorrow
3. putting a roof on the shed
4. working on a really cool editorial project
5. Julian Edelman

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Don't Tell Me "Summer's Over" Edition

1. hot weather
2. iced coffee
3. the fact that summer actually lasts through most of September, suckas
4. skirts
5. sunshine

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Random Edition

1. getting Blogger to work from my Wheaton account
2. being temporarily caught up
3. this awesome Chinese tea one of my students gave me
4. having a little time to get my head together
5. a good night's sleep after a hard day

Monday, September 9, 2013

Five Songs ("Things") that Don't Suck, Unless You're Running Edition

1. This is Hell
2. You Tripped at Every Step
3. Nowhere Road ("It's a nowhere road and I'm tiiiiiired...")
4. Working in a Coal Mine ("Oh! I'm sooo tiiired!")
5. Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Season Opener Edition

1. Danny Amendola
2. Tom Brady
3. Dan Connolly*
4. Julian Edelman
5. Vince Wilfork

*Especially that time he accidentally got the ball and then ran with it like a little kid. Seriously, YouTube that sucker because it's adorable.